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Across Thibet 


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Across Thibej. 


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With Illustrations from Photographs taken by Prince Henry of 
Orleans, and Map of Route. 



Vol. I. 

C A S S E L L & COMPANY, Limited 


[all rights reserved.] 


The last journey undertaken by M. Bonvalot, who was on this 
occasion accompanied by Prince Henry of Orleans, the eldest son 
of the Duc de Chartres, has, perhaps, excited even greater interest 
than the preceding one, when, together with two other Frenchmen, 
he accomplished the difficult if not unprecedented feat of reaching 
India by scaling those tablelands of the Pamir — the " roof of the 
world," as that mountain mass is often called — concerning whicli 
there is so much talk just now. M. Bonvalot entitled that book, 
" Aux Indes par terre," or, to give it the English title 
which I adopted as an equivalent, " Through the Heart of Asia." 
It was a laborious and even dangerous journey, bringing out 
those qualities of courage, self-command, tenacity, knowledge 
of human character, and good-humour, which go to make up 
the successful traveller and explorer. It is to the possession 
of all these qualities that he undoubtedly owes the renown 
which he has achieved as a traveller, and I do not think it 
will be possible for anyone to read the following pages without 
being impressed with the fact that M. Bonvalot — who was 
evidently well seconded by his two companions, Prince Henry 
and the Belgian missionary Father Dedeken— is not only a man 
of dauntless pluck, but a keen observer of men. If he has not 
that undue and self- depreciating modesty which is but pride 
in another form, he does not in any way boast of his exploits ; 
but one has only to read his dispassionate and almost bare record 
of the temperature and the privations of the months spent on 
the highlands of Thibet to realise what the chilling cold and 
the wasting miseries of that terrible winter must have been. 
Yet all this is related in as matter-of-fact a tone as if the 


writer were describing a journey to Cairo or some other well- 
known place in touch with civilisation. Starting from the 
frontiers of Siberia, and coming out at the other end of Asia, 
on the coast of the new French colony of Tonquin, M. Bonvalot 
and his companions not only traversed that portion of Thibet 
which several English travellers, such as Dalgleish and Carey, 
and the great Russian Prjevalsky, had explored, but going 
beyond the limits which their predecessors had reached, forced 
their way over the tablelands and came out on the other side, 
this journey being one which no European had ever accomplished ; 
the only persons who had trodden the same paths being the 
Thibetans on their way to and from the holy city of Lhassa. 
Although they encountered many obstacles, and must at times 
have been in considerable peril, they met with no active hostility 
worth the name, so that the narrative of their journey is not a 
sensational one. 

In translating the book into English, I have endeavoured to 
remain as far as possible true to the original meaning ; but as 
the work is a very large one, I have taken it upon myself to omit 
certain passages — chiefly of dialogue, especially in the chapters 
relating to countries where other travellers had been before. The 
list of the collections which the explorers brought back with them 
has also been omitted in this edition, these collections having been 
exhibited in the Paris Natural History Museum, and not being 
destined for England. Pains have been taken to reduce to 
uniformity many place-names which in the original are given in 
a variety of forms, but in not a few instances the text furnishes 
no data for determining whether the names are those of different 
or of the same places, and in such cases there was no option but 
to follow the original. I may add that the figures relating to the 
temperature have been altered to the Fahrenheit scale throughout. 

C. B. Pitman. 




How the Journey was Suggested — Eachmed— At Moscow — Through the Ural Mountains 
— Arrival at Djarkent — Organising the Caravan — At Kuldja — Father Dedeken — 
Abdullah, the Interpreter — Across the Tien Shan — In the Province of Hi — Kirghis 
and Kalmucks— Chinese Justice — The River Kunges — Mongols — Exposing the Dead 
— Visit to a Grand Lama — A Lama Monastery and Pagoda — Timmiik — Kirghis Im- 
migrants — Valley of the Tsakma — The Joy of the Desert ... ... ... 1 — 25 



A Good Camping Ground — Tent Life — Arrival of Two Torgots — Death of a Camel — Con- 
cerning Obos — The Gorge of the Kahchigué-gol — A Native at his Devotions— The 
Ghadik — Farewell to the Torgots— A Pan-Turkish Empire — Yakoob-Beg ... 26—41 



Kourla — In the Bazaar — Provisioning the Caravan— Parpa — Visit from the Akim of 
Kourla — A " Mandarinade "— Tchinaf i — Music in the Camp — A Forest of Poplars — 
Crossing the Kontché-Darya and the Intchigué-Darya — Aktarma — The River Tarim 
— The " Silk Plant" — Arkan — Hard Words and Blows Compared — Talkitchin — The 
Last of the Tarim— At Tcharkalik 42—74 



A Region of Salt — On the Tarim Again — Abdallah— Residence of the Chief — His Family 
— Wild Camels — Another Abdallah — Lost in the Darkness — More about Wild Camels 
■ — Waterfowl — An Exchange — Disappearance of a Lake — Down the Tarim in Canoes 
■ — Youtchap Khan — Another Native Type — Kumshap Khan — Straddling a River at 
its Mouth — At Eutin — Ichthyophagists— A Native Legend — Probable Causes of 
the Drying up of the Lake — Native Customs — Festivities — Back to the First 
Abdallah— Tchaï— A Couple of Good Shots— A Moonlight March— At Tcharkalik 
Once More 75—110 



"The Southern Road " — Taking Stock — New Recruits : Timour and Iça — Festivities at 
Tcharkalik — A Nomad Moralist and Poet — Tramps — Prince Henry's Return- 
Taking a Chief into Custody — The Dungan and his Master — The Start — Yandachkak 
— The Altyn Tagh — Valley of the Djahan Saï — Tchoukour Saï — Through a Canon 
— Prince Henry Lost 111—139 






Ascent of the Koum Dawan — The Beginning of Mountain Sickness — A Musical Evening 
— At Ouzoun Tchor — Iça's Reformation — A Caravan Sighted — The Plain of 
Tchimène — A Providential Meeting — Bagh Tokai — The Southern Route Discovered 
at Last — Making for Namtso — Diplomacy ... ... ... ... ... 140 — 162 



At Moula Kourghan — More Mountain Sickness — A Chinaman's Logic — Crossing the 
Amban Ashkan Dawan — The Lake which does not Freeze — A Parting : "Forward 
to the Highlands " — The Caravan on Ice — Inquisitive Koulans — Ovongo Antelopes : 
their Strength and Courage — Camp de la Miséricorde — Niaz Sick unto Death — 
Timour Missing — His Return — Remedy for Mountain Sickness — Rachmed Lost and 
Found — Naming a Volcano — Chinese Heartlessness — Death and Burial of Niaz — 
Another Volcano named — A Hurricane— Keeping the New Year ... ... 163 — 197 



New Year's Greetings — The Ruysbruk Volcano — Abdullah Astray — Recovering the 
Track of the Pilgrims— Making for the Tengri Nor — Crossing the Lake of Cones on 
the Ice — " Lake Montcalm " — A Valley of Dry Bones — The Dupleix Mountains — 
Human Handiwork — Probable Source of the Yang-tse-Kiang — Fossils at a Height 
of 19,000 Feet— Traces of Human Beings— 40° Below Zero— Celebrating the 
Chinese New Year — " Crows with a Metallic Croak " — Mountains Everywhere — 
Running Water 198—218 


m. bonvalot and pîunce henry of orlean 


Father Dedeken ... 

The Caravan on the March ... 

A Lama Doctor ... 

The Tien Shan Mountains 

Valley of the Tsakma 

A Mongolian Tent 


The Yulduz Valley 

Imatch calling the Camels 

An "Obo" 

Sandhills at Kourla ... 
A Mongolian Lama 
Kourla Women ... 
A Bit of the Tarim 

Inhabitants of Kourla 

A Chinese Warrant 

Crossing the Kontché Darya 

Natives of Yangi Koul 

Canoe on the Tarim 

Crossing an Arm of the Tarim at Arkan on an Improvised Raft .. 

A Native of Lor 

The Village of Abdallah 

Women of Abdallah and Natives of the Lob Nor, with Implements 

On the Tarim 

The Latter End of the Tarim 

Spinning Woman at Abdallah 

Asses and Sheep on the Road 


At the Foot of the Altyn Tagh 
Tcholkour Saï ... 
The Dungan 




Canon at the Foot of the Kotjm Dawan 


In the Camp at Ouzoun Tchoh 

In the Tash Da^van 

At Bagh Tokai ... 

Encampment at Moula Kourghan 

Camels on the Ice 


Burial of Niaz .. 

Head of an Orongô Antelope 

The Prince in his Travelling Outfit 

The Ruyshruk Peak 

"Pic de Bussy" ... 

Range of Icy Peaks 

Distant Vieav of the "Binocle" Lake 

A Wild Yak 

The First Thibetan Encountered ... 





Across Thibet 



How the Journey was Suggested — Kachmed — At Moscow — Through the TJral Mountains — ■ 
Arrival at Djarkent — Organising the Caravan — At Kuldja — Father Dedeken — Ahdullah, 
the Interpreter — Across the Tien Shan — In the Province of Hi — Kirghis and Kalmucks 
— Chinese Justice — The Eiver Kunges — Mongols — Exposing the Dead — Visit to a Grand 
Lama — A Lama Monastery and Pagoda — Timurlik — Kirghis Immigrants — Valley of the 
Tsakma — The Joy of the Desert. 

Of the first half of my route from Paris 
to Tonquin through Thibet I do not 
propose to say anything, because it is 
already pretty well known, and because 
I have described it briefly in a volume 
published about eight years ago. I shall 
also pass with rapid strides over the 
route which the travellers Prjevalsky and 
. Carey traversed before us, speaking more 
in detail of the regions we were the 

KACHMED. firgt tQ explore> 

It used to be the fashion to invoke 
the muses before one began to write a narrative, but all that is 
out of date ; and for my own part I would simply entreat the 
cross-grained rheumatics and treacherous fever to be so kind as 
to let me keep my word with my publisher, and write with 
as little delay as possible the story of a journey which I under- 
took with great pleasure, but which, as I must frankly admit, 
it is much less agreeable to put upon paper. 

In January, 1889, we were talking, at the house of my 


good friend Henri Lorin, as he reminded me upon my return last 
winter, about travel and exploration, and lie asked me if I had 
any fresh project in view. I told him that a very interesting 
journey would be one from Paris to Tonquin overland, cutting 
out a route of one's own across the whole of Asia. And when he 
asked me to indicate 1113' probable itinerary upon the map, I drew 
a line through Chinese Turkestan, the higher tablelands of Thibet, 
and the valle} T s of the great rivers of China and of the Indo- 
Chinese peninsula. Those who were lookiDg over my shoulder 
thought this scheme a splendid one ; but, for nry own part, still 
feeling the effects of my journey over the Pamir, I would not 
allow mjrself to think of putting it into execution, for the good 
reason that when I let my fancy turn to travel, I am sure to be 
carried away by it. 

A few months later, on coming back from the Exhibition, 
where I had been to catch a glimpse, as it were, of the distant 
lands in which I had wandered, this same friend wrote to say 
that there was a person desirous of travelling with me in Asia. 
The first thing to ascertain was whether it w^as someone pre- 
pared to follow me blindfold, for my intention was not to play 
the globe-trotter, but to explore. I was told that this w r as so, 
and, forgetting all about my resolve to take a rest, I plunged into 
the study of the narratives of Father Hue and Prjevalsky. 

Little time was lost in coming to an understanding with the 
Duc de Chartres, who offered to participate in the expenses of an 
exploring expedition in which his son was to take part. We at 
once agreed that our undertaking should be a national one, and 
that the collections we might make should be handed over to 
our Museums. My future companion, Prince Henry of Orleans, 
was delighted at the plan which I submitted to him, though it 
was a somewhat vague one, for travelling has this much in 
common with war, that, before getting upon the ground, it is 
idle to commit oneself to any positive arrangements. 


The preliminary preparations having been rapidly completed, 
we left Paris on the 6th of July, just when Paris was in the full 
fever of her Exhibition. At Moscow, we were to be joined by 
Rachmed, my faithful companion during my two previous journeys, 
he having been found out for me in the Caucasus at the place 
where I had expected he would be, for I know where Rachmed 
prefers to live when he is not on the tramp. The worthy fellow 
was preparing to come to the Exhibition, by way of realising a 
dream he had for some time been cherishing ; his ticket had been 
taken, and he was about to embark at Batoum, when he got my 
telegram, saying that if he cared to come to China with me, he 
was to go and wait for me at Moscow. So he went and changed 
his ticket for one to Moscow, not in the best of humours, for it cost 
him a pang not to see the Exhibition. Still he did not hesitate, 
being afraid, as he confided to one of my friends, of forfeiting 
my regard. Pachmed is an Uzbeg by birth, and belongs to 
one of the branches of that fine Turkish race which, as I am never 
tired of repeating, comprises so many noble specimens of 

In Pussia we were treated most handsomely, and furnished 
with all necessary letters of recommendation to the Consuls along 
the Chinese frontier. Remaining at Moscow only long enough 
to make the many necessary purchases, we just stopped at Nijni- 
Novgorod, went down the Volga, ascended the Kama, and 
traversed the Ural chain of mountains. At Tiumen we again 
took boat, and landed at Omsk, whence, after making some 
purchases, we started again for Semipalatinsk, where we pur- 
chased the European goods which we were afraid of not being 
able to get at the frontier itself, and, after being very much 
jolted in a tarantass, arrived at Djarkent, the last town on 
Russian territory. 

Before entering China, we had to organise our caravan and 
recruit the staff needful for carrying out our project, but I will 


spare the reader an enumeration of the details and trouble entailed 
by these preliminaries of an exploring party. Let me, however, 
say - that the thorough organisation of a caravan for a journey 
which is to end Heaven knows when or where, is the most 
difficult part of an explorer's work. In the Asiatic countries we 
were about to traverse, vehicles are not used, and the rivers are 
not navigable, being obstacles instead of means of communication 
as they are elsewhere. It is imperative, therefore, neither to 
forget anything nor to take a single superfluous article. So one 
tries to think of everything, and to foresee all contingencies ; but, 
after having eliminated as much as possible, it is astonishing to 
find how heavy the load is. 

Meanwhile, we had to recruit our men at Djarkent on the 
frontier of Siberia. This was most difficult, for here w r e could only 
secure men very much below the mark, and not at all built for 
a long journey. Rachmed inspected them first, and, in presenting 
them to me, his unvarying observation was, " They are of no use 
for the road." I could see that he was right. There was not one 
of them who had respectable antecedents ; they were a pack of 
lazy and penniless fellows who were anxious only to get across 
the frontier in our wake. Among them there is not one of those 
adventurers, vigorous and read}^ for anything, who have already 
looked death in the face, and would go through fire after the 
leader whom chance had given them, provided that leader had 
succeeded in attaching them to himself by a mixture of good and 
of bad usage. How much we regretted not having our base of 
operations in Russian Turkestan — at Samarkand, for instance, 
where there is no lack of good men. It is true we had three 
Russians who would suit us very well, but they made it a 
condition, when they took service with us, that they should not 
go beyond the Lob Nor. 

September 0. — We left Djarkent on the 2nd, and, marching by 
short stages, reached Kulclja to-day, and were most hospitably 



received by the Russian Consul and his secretary. We spend a 
few hours very pleasantly with the members of the Belgian 
mission, one of whom, Father Dedeken, has completed his 
engagement, and is about to return to Europe. As he has an 
appointment at Shanghai, he will go with us to the coast, and 
perhaps accompany us to Europe. He speaks Chinese, and as he 
is a man of strong will, we are glad to have our party reinforced 


by him. His Chinese servant, Bartholomeus, who is to accom- 
pany him, is honest — which few Chinese servants appear to be — 
but very obstinate, which, on the contrary, seems to be very 
common in China. 

Prince Henry, Father Dedeken, Bachmed, Bartholomeus, and 
nryself form the nucleus of the expedition. We have, too, an 
interpreter named Abdullah, who speaks Chinese and Mongolian, 
and who accompanied the celebrated Prjevalsky. He seems to 
be an honest sort of fellow, but his vanity, his boastfulness, his 
talkativeness make us very uneasy. 

His account of what he went through in the Tsaïdam alarms 
our followers, and he seems bent upon dissuading us from under- 
taking anything out of the beaten tracks. It .must be added 
that the Russian Consul at Kuldja is not much more encouraging, 
and when Prince Henry tells him we are going %o try to reach 
Batang, he smiles incredulously, and advises him not to be lured 
on by that idea. He points out to us that we have no escort, no 
felt tent, no Chinese passport. But experience has taught us that 
one can get on without either of these three things which he 
regards as indispensable. As regards the passport, I must say 
that the main cause of our success was our omission to give notice 
of our journey to the Tsong li Yamen at Pekin. B} r asking for a 
passport to travel in those parts of China which have been little 
visited, we should have excited the attention of Chinese diplo- 
macy. The mandarins would have given us the warmest letters 
of recommendation, and then, as soon as our itinerary was known, 
would have sent orders for every sort of means to be used to stop 
us on the road, and compel us to turn back. Such has been the 
lot of all travellers in China, from the late Prjevalsky down to 
Uichthofen, Count Bela-Szechny, and so many others who have 
been stopped in their journeys by various devices. 

After having completed our caravan as best we could at 
Ivuldja, all we wanted, in order to continue our journey, was the 


authorisation of the Chinese governor of the province. This was 
granted us after a visit in which etiquette was very carefully 
observed, insomuch that we were offered three cups of tea and a 
bottle of champagne ; and the Governor gave us two safe-conducts 
to take us to the frontiers of the province of Hi. 

September 12. — To-day the small European colony kindly 
escorts us to the gate of the town, and cordially wishes us a safe 
journey and happy return home. 

And so at last we find ourselves in the saddle. We first make 
in an easterly direction, but change our course as soon as we have 
crossed the Tien Shan, as it is Tonquin that we have in view. 
Shall we ever get there, and if so, by what route ? There is all 
the old continent to cross, the least known portion of China, 
Thibet and its highlands, the deserts, and the deep rivers, to 
say nothing of the human beings who look upon every stranger 
as an enemy. All this I might have said to myself, and to these 
reflections might have added that we were only five or six to 
face an unknown situation, before which so many others better 
equipped and prepared had quailed. But I must confess that I 
had not one of these rhetorical thoughts in my head when 
once I found myself fairly started, abandoning myself to the 
pleasure of being in the open and looking about me with the 
eager curiosity of the traveller whose eyes, almost starting from 
their orbits, scan the horizon like a hungry hawk in search of 

After getting quit of the dust which reminds me of 
Turkestan, the soil, the landscape, and the cultivation of the 
plain recall the neighbourhood of Samarkand and Tashkend. 
The beardless faces, the sunken e}^es, and the long dresses of 
the men show that one is in China. The fertility of the valley 
i of Hi is remarkable, so that for the last few years its population 
has been growing very rapidly. A great many of the Tarantshis 
who had fled to Russian territory are coming back to the places 


which their forefathers had cultivated, and a number of emigrants 
come from Kashgar, and even from Eastern China ; but it will 
be a long time before the inhabitants are numerous enough to 
cultivate to the full extent this region, which would feed hundreds 
of thousands. 

Leaving the valley of Hi to our right, as far as Mazar, built 
upon an affluent of the Kash, we followed a very good road, 
frequently coming upon villages which have been abandoned by 
the Tarantshis, who, having taken part in the massacre of the 
Chinese, fled when the province of Hi was transferred from 
Russia to China. The houses are falling into ruins, and are 
gradually disappearing amid a growth of willows, poplars, and 
vines ; weeds choke up the gardens ; the irrigating canals are 
dried up, and the fields are fallow. Deserted though the soil 
is, however, it has not ceased to be generous ; it is arrayed in 
verdure, and its aspect is bright and cheerful. 

One of our men recognises the house in which he was born. 



The roof lias fallen in, the door has been carried off — for fuel no 
doubt — the walls are all cracked, and there are patches of barley 
growing at the extremity of the hearthstone. The Tarantshi 
was overcome with grief at the sight of the place all in ruins, 
and recalled how happily he had lived there with his parents, what 
fine crops they grew, and how cheap the food was. 
I asked him why he had not remained there. 
" We killed too many Chinese, Solons, and Sibos," he replied, 
" and upon the Chinese returning we fled." 

" Now that you have crossed the frontier, will you return to 
Djarkent ? " 

" Heaven preserve me, no ! The soil is not good, and 
water is scarce. I shall go to Kashgar, where the family of one 
of my wives lives." 

" Were you not married at Djarkent ? " 

" Yes, and I had a child as well. He died the day before I 
came to offer you my services, and I gave my wife back to her 
father. I am quite free." 

The facility with which this Mussulman abandoned his wife 
surprised me, but in this country it appears to be quite common. 
What this Tarantshi told me about Hi was repeated to me 
by many others. Most of those who live in Russian territory 
are on the look-out for a chance of slipping across the frontier. 
The Chinese mandarins have the wit to entice them ; they do not 
ask them for papers. They let them settle on the uncultivated 
lands, and do not bother them about the past. 

In the province of Hi, beyond Mazar, we meet a great many 
Siberian Kirghis, whom the excellence of the pasturages along 
the affluents of the Hi has attracted. They have kept the chiefs 
whom they had elected being Russian subjects. By order of 
the Chinese mandarin, and with the assent of the tribes, these 
chiefs will transmit their powers to their descendants. 

Side by side with these very wealthy Kirghis we see some 


very poor Kalmucks. The rich pastures and flocks belong to 
the former, while the latter are relegated to the less fertile tracts, 
which they cultivate without gaining a sufficiency. These 
Kalmucks are certainly not taking in appearance. They are 
frail, badly fed, badly housed, badly clad, and have a placid rather 
than an energetic and intelligent air. Nevertheless, they have 
for some time been entrusted with the defence of the country, 
and they must not leave the place assigned to them without 
asking permission from their chief. They are not only bound to 
the soil, but are liable to be requisitioned for police or orderly 
duty, and must have in readiness the sabre, the flint-lock gun, or 
the bow. Their " banners," to the number of twenty, distributed 
over the Tien Shan, play more or less the same part as those 
families which in Austria were established in the south of the 
empire in the region of the " military frontiers," as they were 
styled. Their neighbours do not appear to hold them in high 
esteem, for a Kirghis to whom I observed how mild a physiog- 
nomy these Mongols have, replied with a laugh — 

" That is true. They are as mild as cows." 

" In what way ? " 

" Because they can be milked without any trouble." 

It appears that the Kirghis, who are daring, well armed, and 
unscrupulous, do not think twice about cheating and pillaging 
these Mongols. As the plunderers are Mussulmans, they can easily 
settle matters with their consciences, seeing that the victims are 
Buddhists, that is to say, people who have no "book," neither a 
Bible nor a Koran, and so are of no account. 

The Chinese authorities intervene but rarely to mete 
out justice to those who are aggrieved ; the offenders are nearly 
always out of reach in the mountains, where they find it so easy 
to hide, and then again it is easy, in this case, to obtain from 
their family or tribe either a tax which may be in arrears or a 
present which in ordinary times would be withheld. But when 


brigandage has readied such a point that there is no sort of 
security, the authorities resort to a ruse. By dint of promises 
and fair words, the chief who is the instigator of the trouble is 
enticed into the town and got rid of in some way or other. For 
instance, he is put into a cage between two impaling poles, and, 
by way of warning to offenders, he is left to die in this horrible 
posture. Sometimes it is a week before his agony ends in death. 
Having lost their leader the nomads are thrown more or less into 
confusion, and advantage is taken of this to obtain some kind of 

The Chinese authorities have succeeded in embodying a 
certain number of Kirghis, in registering them, so to speak. 
Thus we observed that the horsemen whom we meet wear round 
the neck a small tablet in a felt bag. When I ask what that 
means, I am told that for some time past every Kirghis who is 
going into the town must first appear before his leader and ask 
him for one of these tablets, upon which his name is written in 
Turkish, in Chinese, and in Mongolian. It is a passport which 
enables him to move about freely in the bazaars, and if in times of 
disturbance he should be caught without it he is arrested by the 
Chinese soldiers and visited with the most terrible punishments. 
On returning to his tribe, the traveller has to return the passport 
to his chief, and in this way it is possible to ascertain who are 
absent, and to exercise some sort of police control in the 
mountains. These men, riding about with the tablet napping 
against their chest, enable one to realise the enormous power of 
an administration when opposed to the weakness of private 
interests without cohesion. The Chinese authorities have suc- 
ceeded by dint of patience in getting the whip hand of these 
nomads, who used to make mock of them, and have put the 
yoke of the law upon their necks. 

September 15. — To-day we left Mazar, and if the bridge 
over the Kash had not been carried away by a storm, we should 


have crossed that river so as to reach the valley of the Kunges 
by a neighbouring pass. But we were compelled to cross the 
mountain further north and find out a ferry higher up the river. 
After having climbed up and then followed the undulations of 
the uncultivated hills, we descried the valley, a sort of terrace at 
the foot of the mountains, a greyish steppe dotted over with a 
few tents and nomad flocks. It is commanded to the east by a 
chain of mountains more elevated than that to the north, and 
the slopes of which seem to us quite bare, while the summits are 
not white with snow. 

The banks of the river present a somewhat attractive appear- 
ance, the stream flowing along like a ribbon amid verdure formed 
by poplars, willows, tamarisks which still bear a few flowers, 
liquorice-plants, barberries, and wild raspberries. There is 
abundance of water, and the grass is thick wherever the river 
reaches, while pheasants swarm in the undergrowth. 

Passing a deserted village, we cross the small stream of Nilka 
and leave the marshy valley for the high plateau which overhangs 
it. In the midst of tall grass we come here and there upon 
cleared plots where the Mongols have their felt tents, which are 
smaller than those of the Kirghis, lower and more pointed at the 
summit. These Mongols are busy threshing the wheat in the 
open air, in the same way as other primitive peoples who do not 
employ any machine. A pole is put into the ground in the centre 
of the wheat, which is laid out upon the ground, and oxen are 
tied to this pole and made to tramp round in a line, children 
driving them along with a stick. These children are stark naked, 
and very weakly in appearance. Their stomachs are protuberant, 
and their skin, exposed constantly to the sun, is nearly black, 
while it seems to be merely thrown loosely over their frame, and 
to be about to come off^ whenever they raise their arms and cause 
their angular shoulder-blades to protrude. 

September 16. — This evening we reach the banks of the 



river, which is at least 650 feet wide at the point where we are to 
cross it, for it branches out and forms numerous small islands, 

A LAMA DOCTOR (p. 15). 

while the current is very impetuous. We hope that in the 
morning, when the water is lowest, we shall get our caravan 
over without mishap before sunrise. From our bivouac we can 
distinguish to the north white specks in the plain, at the foot of 
the mountains. These, it appears, are the tents of the lamas 


engaged upon the harvest ; and when it is over, they will return 
to winter in the monastery built upon the left bank of the 

We are now in a Buddhist country, in a land where the 
people believe in the transmigration of the soul from one body to 
another. This does not tend to respect for the human body or to 
regard for the dead. While walking" through the reed-beds 
in search of small birds for our natural history collection, my 
foot comes into contact with the upper part of a human 
skull. It is quite white, stripped cleaner than could have 
been done by the cleverest medical student. Upon examining 
it, I find that it was the very image of the Kirghis skulls 
which I have had in my hand in Turkestan, there being the 
same depression of the occiput, the same breadth of cheek, the 
same prominent eyebrows, the same protruding cheek-bones, 
but with the forehead apparently less developed and rather lower, 
though quite as receding. We may assume that this skull was 
that of a man who did not possess any very marked intelligence, 
who was short in stature — as I learnt from the thigh-bone, which 
I picked up a little further — and who had excellent teeth, 
as is proved by a fragment of his lower jaw. The bits of 
clothing hanging from the thorn-bushes show that he was not 
a man of wealth. This was the place where his remains were 
exposed as soon as the soul had passed into a better body. Four 
stakes, with bits of stuff at the end of them, indicated that the 
corpse was deposited there, and the wild beasts, the birds of 
prey, and no doubt the dogs from the adjoining tents, have 
cleared away the terrestrial envelope of this Mongol, devour- 
ing his flesh and grinding his bones, and then time and the 
weather completed the work of destruction. There remain 
only a whitened skull, a half-gnawed thigh-bone, and a fragment 
of jaw; the soul has taken its flight, and the bits of stuff at the 
end of the stakes are praying for it, for, inscribed in black letters 


upon a yellow ground, are marvellous supplications brought 
from Lhassa. 

September 17. — To-day, as we were certain of being able to 
overtake our caravan, which will be delayed in its progress by 
having to cross the ferry, we paid a visit to the Grand Lama, the 
head of the monastery. Our approach to the tents was heralded 
by the furious barking of some splendid long-haired dogs. The 
noise brings out the lamas, young and old, who drive away the 
angry mastiffs by throwing stones at them. We explain the 
object of our visit to the oldest of them, and he sends on in 
advance two young monks, and himself conducts us to the 
residence of his superior. The person who acts as our cicerone 
has an enormous head, a rather long neck, small eyes, and a big 
face covered with warts, so that his physiognomy would not be 
very pleasing but for the mouth and the smile playing upon his 
thick lips. It appears that this worthy man, whose age it would 
be very difficult to guess, is a celebrated doctor. His headdress 
is a greasy leather cap surmounted with a tuft, a small cap such 
as might fit a chorister boy, and which is much too small for so 
huge a head, upon which it produces much the same effect as 
would a wafer on the top of an orange. For dress he has a 
long serge robe coming down to the feet and fastened round 
the waist with a belt, while his small feet are encased in 
untanned leather, which does duty at once as stocking and 
as boot. 

The Grand Lama received us very affably at the entrance 
to his tent of white felt, which was larger than any of the 
others. He himself drew aside the curtain, and invited us into 
his residence; and we, as soon as we had entered, seated ourselves 
in Eastern fashion to the left of the aperture. The yellow- 
looking little man asked us as to our health, offered us the 
services of his doctor, and talked to us in the most paternal and 
friendly tone. Leaving our interpreter to answer for us, we 


proceeded to inspect at our ease, but with due discretion, this 
incarnation of Buddha and his abode. 

The Grand Lama appears to be about sixty. Like all the 
priests of his creed, he wears his hair short, and being beardless 
by nature, he has no need to shave. His features are regular, 
especially by comparison with those of his doctor. He has rather 
a broad face, but the black eyes are very intelligent, the mouth is 
delicate, and the eyelids very clearly defined. He is easy in his 
gestures, and has a good deal of unction in his voice. I should 
not be at all surprised if he ruled the fraternity excellently, for 
he gives the impression of being a man of mark. From time to 
time he takes a pinch of red snuff, which he puts out on to the 
nail of his thumb from an oval jade bottle with a silver stopper. 
He takes care that we are served with some tea with butter 
in it, which is the favourite drink of the Mongols and the 
Thibetans, and which I found very much to my liking upon 
tasting it for the first time. 

Behind my host there stands upon a slab a gilt statue, which 
represents the Grand Lama of Lhassa, The Grand Lama seems 
to be very like him, and has the same smiling physiognomy. 

There is nothing in the tent which indicates any effort at 
cleanliness or luxury. The whole of the furniture seems to be 
about equally neglected, and the only apparent value possessed 
by anything is a row of small jade vases placed upon a coffer 
covered with some yellow material opposite to the entrance ; an 
altar has been raised, and some sacred images are enclosed in a sort 
of tabernacle or movable chapel, the shape of which reminds me of 
those I have seen in Italy ; and, as is the case in Italy and also in 
Spain, these sacred images of Buddha are carried to the residences 
of such persons as ask for them, in order to facilitate their cure, 
which the doctor also helps to effect by means of remedies that 
have received the priestly benediction. Among these remedies 
are some truly extraordinary ones, of so singular an origin 



that I dare not explain them, for fear of being considered 

Presently there is a great noise of drums and cymbals, which 
is the call to prayer. So we take leave of the Grand Lama, who 


rises, offers us his hand, and wishes us a safe journey, with the 
same smiling face which is seen alike in the Buddhas of statues 
and in the Buddhas of flesh and blood. The aged priest readily 
gives us permission to visit the pagoda built close to the winter 

As we go out we notice the cymbal- players, who are standing 
in front of a large tent which is used for religious service during 
the harvest. The lamas are nearly all out in the fields, and the 
number of worshippers is very small, the congregation consisting 
mainly of youths with skull-caps on their clean-shaven heads/ 
and a long monkish robe fastened round the waist with a belt. 


The monastery consists of a congeries of houses in the Mongol 
style, forming a square. Nothing can be simpler than the archi- 
tecture of these buildings : four walls, a door, a window, a fire- 
place, a hole in the ceiling, some forage on the roof, and that is 
about all. As far as we can judge by what can be seen through 
the chinks in the closed doors, the furniture is not worth speaking 
of, for we can see only a few chests, some clothing, and a certain 
quantity of tools. Moreover, the lamas, faithful to their nomad 
habits, are said to inhabit, even during the cold season, their felt 
tents, erected in the courtyards formed by these dwellings. They 
are built of earth, rubble, and wood, and are used as much for 
cattle as for human beings. 

The pagoda is new, and its walls are whitewashed. The main 
door being open, we enter into a sort of rectangular barn. The 
first thing which strikes the eye is the altar, upon which are 
burning lamps whose flame sheds a glow upon the gilding 
of the statues. One represents Buddha in his youth, wreathed in 
smiles and seated upon a throne. Behind him a lama, in gilt 
metal, is smiling as amiably as Buddha himself. Like him, 
he has long ears — the better to hear prayer, no doubt ; and he 
hold his hands out, one against the other, in the attitude of a 
person ready to applaud, while at the same time maintaining an 
aspect of great dignity. 

Beside the high altar, in a chapel of more modest proportions, 
is the statue of a person dressed in yellow, with an apron on the 
knees and a chaplet in the hand. He, we are told, is to be the 
successor of the Grand Lama, and his functions are analogous 
to those of a Christian saint, he having to intercede for the 
faithful and to transmit their prayers to the proper destination. 
On the table of the altar are a number of small cups containing oil, 
and, beside these, there are bronze ewers, bells, bundles of images, 
peacocks' feathers disposed as trophies, packets of sacred books and 
printed prayers, phials containing grains or perfumes, and other 


trifles, which are, nevertheless, of high value, for they have been 
brought from the holy city of Lhassa. The two sides of the nave, 
if it may be so called, are used as a warehouse. 

Before we left, the lama who acted as our guide showed us a 
tambourine which was used as an organ for accompanying the 
prayers ; and striking the cymbals which are used for the same 
purpose, he, with raised forefinger and open mouth, bade us 
admire their sonorous properties. Their vibrations are, as a 
matter of fact, very harmonious. Before parting with him we 
gave him a handsome " tip," and the poor fellow did not attempt 
to disguise his satisfaction, for these simple people do not know 
what wealth is, and we were struck by the wretched state in which 
the Mongols encamped around the pagoda live. The interior of 
their tents is the acme of filth, and the smells emanating from 
them are horrible. Nearly all the children are naked, the parents 
not having the wherewithal to clothe them. As to the women, 
they exceed in ugliness anything which can be imagined ; and one 
cannot help wondering how the most ardent of poets would 
contrive to idealise them. 

In the evening we penetrate by a small pass into the valley 
of the Kunges, and encamp not far from a copper-mine, where we 
discover a tiny spring, which supplies us with sufficient water for 
our tea. And that is about all, for we are on an arid steppe. 

Septemher 18. — To-day Ave encamp among the rushes on the 
banks of the Kunges, at a place named Timurlik. We cross the 
Kunsres about six miles farther on, for we have to make to the 
south-east towards the valley of Tsakma, and the pass which leads 
there is higher up the stream. We are now on the route 
followed by Prjevalsky, and so far the crossing of the chain of 
the Tien Shan, which barred our route, has presented no great 
difficulties. The excursion, indeed, was a delightful one, and the 
temperature agreeable, though at one in the afternoon it was 
100° Fahrenheit in the shade. The minimum at night was 16°, 


just cool enough to make it a pleasure to wrap ourselves up in 
our long wadded blankets. 

September 19. — Some Kirghis who to-day offered us hospitality 
declared themselves to be the happiest of men. They have water 
in plenty ; they sow their corn at the foot of the mountains, and 
find an abundance of grass in the plains for their flocks arid herds. 
They do not run short of wood, for the banks of the Kunges are 
covered with thick plantations, where the willow, the poplar, the 
apple-tree (with small and sharp-flavoured fruit), the pepper-tree, 
the apricot-tree, hemp, the liquorice-plant, and the hop-vine grow 
wild. These Kirghis formerly lived on Russian territory in the 
neighbourhood of Lepsinsk, and crossed over to Chinese soil 
because they had no routes for their flocks. They pay the Chinese 
a tax of 10 per cent. They are very cheerful, well fed, lusty, and 
with plenty of colour, like all who live in the keen mountain air. 
They do not strike us as being very fond of work, passing all 
their time in going from one tent to another, in eating and sleep- 
ing, though occasionally they go out after game. Several of them 
are armed with Berdane rifles. 

/September 20. — We take leave of these Kirghis, the last we 
shall see, their tribes not extending farther east. Their chief, 
named Sasan, is very proud of the Russian medal which he wears 
round his neck, and of the blue button in his hat, which indicates 
his Chinese rank. He accompanies us through the reed-beds, aod 
before wishing us all sorts of good luck, recommends to our 
favourable notice five men of his tribe whom we may encounter 
in the Yulduz country. He warns us that when they see us they 
will take us for Chinese and make off, but he begs us not to fire 
on them or do them any harm. We at once inferred that Sasan's 
friends are Barantashis — that is to say, persons addicted to baranta, 
the Turkish word for horse-stealing. 

September 22. — The two guides whom the Chinese governor 
gave us assert that they do not know the route to the valley of 




Tsakma, and Abdullah, the interpreter, who undertook to show 
us the way, led us right into a cul-de-sac. We retraced our steps, 
and the plainest common sense enabled us to discover what ivould 
have been a convenient pass if the rain had not made the ascent 
so arduous. Gaining the summit at last, we descended into the 
valley, and re-ascencled a plateau, where we found refuge beneath 
a splendid cluster of pine-trees ; a piece of bread taken out of our 
pockets, and some currants picked from a currant-bush close by, 
constituting our frugal breakfast. 

The rain ceased when we reached the summit of the pass. 
Near the watershed we came upon a roughly-defined path along 
the edge of a gorge to our left. All of a sudden a strong gust of 
wind made a large horizontal rent in the veil of mist spread over 
the landscape, and we were able to distinguish, far to the south, 
mountains covered with forests, the trees of which already had a 
powdering of snow, while above were large banks of black clouds. 
Then the mist slowly cleared off, and as the atmosphere gradually 
lightened, the eye wandered gladly over a broad valley, which we 
did not suspect to be so near. Clumps of green trees mark 
the windings of the river Tsakma, which traverses a steppe 
extending towards the west, and covering, as if w T ith a greyish 
carpet, the sides of the valley. It might be supposed to be 
perfectly smooth, and to come down without a break to the 
groves of trees at the bottom : but by looking closer, spots of a 
more decided colour can be distinguished, and the eye gradually 
detects that they are moving. They prove to be gazelles, which 
take fright at our approach, and make off at full speed. It is 
then we discover that the slope, which had seemed to us quite 
smooth, is not so in reality, for the gazelles first go down and 
disappear, then come up again, only again to disappear, dis- 
closing to us all the undulations of a very uneven desert, a few 
green patches in the hollows marking the places where the water 
which has come down from the mountain has collected. 



The horizon being more distinct, thanks to the breeze, the 
view broadens towards the west, and stretches so far that the 
river is onfy visible as a slender thread, and gradually becomes 
lost in space. So we get once more that sensation of the 
desert which we nomads so like. Without attempting to analyse 


the feeling, I may say that the steppe, the desert, is a very 
fascinating place of sojourn for one who has lived in large cities, 
and has been put out of humour by the petty worries of civil- 
isation. Solitude is a true balm, which heals up the many 
wounds that the chances of life have inflicted ; its monotony has a 
calming effect upon nerves made over-sensitive from having 
vibrated too much ; its pure air acts as a douche which drives 
petty ideas out of the head. In the desert, too, the mind sees 
more clearly, and mental processes are carried on more easily. 

Encamping on a natural platform near a plantation through 
which the river runs, we light big fires, dry our clothes, and 
sacrifice a good fat sheep. The sheep remaining are fastened 


together and placed between the fires, within the circle formed by 
the camels and horses, for we are in fear of the wolves reducing' 
us to starvation. 

This region, in which are to be found traces of wild boar, deer, 
and wolves, is frequented by trappers and hunters, as is proved by 
the ashes of a fire in the open, by charred logs of wood, and by a 
shelter made out of the boughs of trees. 

We find a very comfortable resting-place under a pine tree, 
between two enormous roots. The soil had been trampled down, 
and our sleeping apartment is a thick bed of grass under a sort of 
arch, beneath which we have to creep. Of course, it would not 
do to attempt many gestures in awaking, but one can sleep here 
protected from nearly all winds, and light a fire without fear of 
its being put out by the rain, the fine points of the evergreen 
branches not allowing a drop to penetrate so far. There is an 
abundance of game close at hand, and we shall clearly be able to 
kill some stags, since we have come across big thigh-bones 
which the wolves have not taken the trouble to crunch. More- 
over, there is delicious water and plenty of wood ready to hand. 




A Good Camping Ground — Tent Life — Arrival of Two Torgots — Death of a Camel — Con- 
cerning Obos — The Gorge of the Kabchigué-gol— A Native at His Devotions — The 
Ghadik — Farewell to the Torgots — A Pan-Turkish Empire — Yakoob-Beg. 

September 26. — After a brief stage 
on the 24th, having found a suitable 
spot, we halted to prepare for crossing 
the pass. I may say, once for all, that 
by " a suitable spot " I mean one where 
we can pitch our tent upon fairly level 
ground, sheltered from the wind or 
the snow, and, if possible, close to 
wood and water. A splendid camping 
ground such as this is not to be for- 
gotten, and so we have remained 
here two days, busied in repairs, ex- 
amining the horses' shoes and substi- 
tuting new ones where required, and 
IMATCH - taking care that there is not a nail 

loose or missing. The backs of the 
beasts of burden and of the horses are carefully inspected ; where 
the saddles gall, they are rectified, and the wounds dressed ; 
the saddle-bags and packing canvas are sewn where torn. 

Our old camel-driver, the bandy-legged Imatch, who would 
not part from the camels we had bought of his master, looks after 
his charges with genuine affection. They know him, and when he 
calls to them in the steppe at feeding-time, they come to him like 
fowls to the henwife. 

Some of our men are already indisposed, and it happens that 
these are the most laz}- of the whole troop. They are very 


anxious to be sent back with the guides given us by the governor, 
who are returning. However, they must go with us beyond the 
pass, as we cannot afford to reduce our staff just now. 

We have been leading a tent-life for barety ten days, and 
already we have got accustomed to it and have learnt to like it. 
And yet our tent is neither large nor comfortable. About the 
height of an average-sized man, it is sufficiently long and broad 
to enable all three of us to lie upon the felt, to eat out 
of the single pot around which we gather, and to sip our tea 
without rubbing elbows. Our shelter consists of a good piece of 
canvas sewn double, and this suffices to protect us from the bad 
weather, and to give us the sensation of being in a well-protected 
room while the rain is pelting and the wind howling outside. 

The departure of the two guides provided by the Grove rnor of 
Hi created a void, which was at once filled up by the arrival of 
two Torgots. They came in to our encampment on horseback, 
with their rifles slung across the shoulder, and with a long coil of 
hair hanging down the back. Approaching our men's fire, they 
began to converse with them in the Mongolian language, and, 
after having had some tea, said, in reply to our questions, that 
five days before they found four of their best horses missing, 
so the}' went in search of them. Emerging from the valley of the 
Yulduz, where their tents were pitched, they found traces of 
horses, but without knowing whether they were theirs or not. So 
they resolved to visit the valley of the Tsakma, thinking that the 
thieves had passed that way. As a matter of fact, they discovered 
traces northward — that is to say, in the direction of the Kirghis of 
the Kunges. But, rain falling, they could not trace them any 
further, so they returned, being certain that they could catch us 
up, for they saw that we had camels. 

Upon our asking them why the Kirghis had stolen their 
horses, they said it had always been so, and they could not indulge 
in reprisals, for the Kirghis were the stronger. Formerly they 


lived in complete security in this valley of the Tsakma. Then 
the Kirghis came, and at first occupied part of it, but then they 
wanted to take the whole of it. For some time there was a con- 
stant interchange of robberies and murders between the two 
peoples, until at last the Chinese authorities intervened and 
decided that the only means of re-establishing peace was to 
compel the two parties to quit the pastures. "Since that time," 
they added, "neither Mongols nor Kirghis have lighted their fires 
in the valley of the Tsakma." 

We had no difficulty in inducing the two Torgots to remain 
with ns and show us the way. They were much interested in 
what went on around them — in the arms which were being 
furbished, in the birds which were being stuffed, while they were 
surprised at finding the shin from the leg of a stag which Prince 
Henry had killed being preserved. They exchanged remarks 
when they observed the terrible effect produced by the bullet of 
the express rifle, and then, chin on hand, feasted their eyes 
upon the palao-meat which was cooking nicely in the pot, the 
sight of this completing our conquest of them. 

September 25. — To-day, after going up hill and down dale, we 
gradually climb to the pass, which Rachmed and myself consider 
very easy by comparison with many others. A strong cold wind 
gets up from the W.N.W. — that is to say, at our back — but we 
are on a desolate steppe, where we can find neither a shrub nor 
anything else which can help to combat the cold that is beginning 
to be unpleasant. On the other hand, we come upon some 
very pretty flowers, lovely wild pansies and edelweiss that would 
delight the heart of an Alpinist. In the evening we encamp on 
the banks of the Yulduz, which we reach by descending a path 
free from stones. The clouds conceal from us the mountains, which 
shut in the valley, and this does not add to the attractiveness of 
the view. We are glad to huddle away in a deep gorge, for the 
wind is most cutting. 



Before nigrlit-time all our camels have come in, but one of 
them, purchased at Kuklja, is ill, and he drops as soon as he has 
got in. His burden is removed, but he cannot rise. There 
is a divergency of opinion as to whether he will recover, and the 


interpreter, who knows all about everything, says : " Wait a 
minute, and I will tell you. The hairs of his tail will indicate 
to you what his fate will be." 

He pulls out a few of these hairs and examines them, after- 
wards pressing them between the thumb and the forefinger, close 
to the root, and rubbing his two fingers together. 

" I can assure you that he will die." 


" Because I had no difficulty in pulling out the hairs, because 
the adipose tissue adheres to the root of the hairs, which indicates 
a fatal sickness." 


The face of the little interpreter glows with satisfaction at 
having given proof of his sagacity ; and in the meanwhile our 
poor camel is in his death throes, exciting the pity of his driver, 
who puts a sheepskin under his head for a pillow. The dying beast's 
eye is dilated and he loses consciousness. He struggles as he 
lies, and one would fancy that all the thoughts of his past 
existence were chasing one another hurriedly through his brain. 
He seems as if anxious to go through all the acts which have 
been so often reiterated as to have become habits with him. He 
makes an effort to rise, he kicks his legs in the air as if to walk, 
he moves his jaws as if to eat, he seeks to make a noise in the 
throat as if to ruminate ; but the gaze fades away, the eye closes, 
and the good servant gasps in death. 

The two Torgots, who are Buddhists, look on with much 
sadness, and mumble some kind of a prayer — or, rather, a few words 
wishing a safe journey to the soul which is on the point of 
transmigration. That does not prevent them, as soon as the soul 
has taken its flight, from stripping the skin off the body which 
held it. As the soul has fled, what could it matter ? 

September 26. — -To-night we have a minimum of four degrees 
below zero, and when they wake up the men complain of the cold. 
We follow the valley, which continues to run through the steppe, 
and, gradually getting farther away from the Yulduz, the waters 
of which flow over sand and pebbles, we encamp on the banks 
of the Zakiste-gol, a river abounding in fish. On the way, we 
meet the caravan of an important lama, and make him very un- 
easy by proceeding to photograph him, Prince Henry succeeding 
none the less. These worthy lamas, with their pointed head-gear, 
seem to us to be a little the worse for drink. 

The landscape remains much the same ; for we are still on 
the steppe shut in by mountains, bare, and in places quite white 
with salt, while here and there are peat-pits, where the water is 
either stagnant or runs off very slowly. We notice some arkar 


horns on the ground, but have no time to go in pursuit of 
these animals on the mountain. 

September 28. — This evening we encamp beyond the dried- 
up bed of the river Borokusté, and find plenty of grass for 
the camels and kisiak (droppings) for the fire. To the 
north we can see on the sides of the mountain an inscrip- 
tion in very large letters. These are the sacred sayings of the 
Buddhists, which believers can decipher miles off. Never in 
my life have I seen such big letters ; all the slopes of the 
Tien Shan would scarcely be sufficient to print a whole book. 
The Buddhists like to manifest their devotion in the open air, 
and when we leave the valley to reach by a pass the defile of 
Kabchigué-gol, we meet oôos, or heaps of stones, upon most of 
which prayers have been engraved, at each culminating point of 
the undulating ground. 

These obos are generally placed on an eminence, at one 
of those spots where the beasts of burden are allowed to halt 
and get breath. Advantage is often taken of these halts to 
make a light collation ; after that, prayers are offered that the 
road may be a good one, when starting on a journey, while 
thanks are returned because it has been good, if the journey 
is ending. By way of showing respect or gratitude to the 
divinity, stones are heaped up, and a pole is often placed in 
the ground, with a prayer written on a piece of canvas tied to 
the end of it ; those who follow after add more stones. Workmen 
specially employed, and travelling lamas, engrave piTiyers upon 
slabs and dejDOsit them at the spot. Thus the obo is constituted, 
and the shepherds, the travellers, and the tribes on the march 
swell its proportions every time they pass, the heaps of stones 
gradually acquiring such colossal proportions that they have the 
appearance of monuments. Many Buddhists deposit images 
of Buddha, and of Tsong Kaba, the great reformer; and small 
pyramids of earth represent chapels, as I was informed. Others 


deposit carved fragments of horn, pieces torn off their garments, 
bits of horsehair (which they tie on to a stick), or anything which 
comes handy to them ; and when they are making the presenta- 
tion, they offer up prayer. 

In order to reach the defile of Kabchigué-gol — a word which, 
we are told, means "river of the narrow place" — we follow the left 
side of the valle} r . The road, which is fairly good, winds along 
the spurs of the mountain, with a view to the right of the valley 
where the Torgots have their tents, with their flocks and herds 
roaming over the green steppe. The sun is shining in all its 
splendour, and its heat seems excessive after the severe cold of the 
previous night. We have only to look behind us to be convinced 
that this fine weather will not last, for we can see the dark mass 
of a storm coming upon us from the extremity of the valley. The 
wind howls, the sleet and then the snow beat down upon us with 
all the severity of winter. Fortunately we have reached the 
summit of the pass — those of us, at least, who have horses, 
for the camels come at a slower rate, and do not alter their 

The fury of the storm is intensified at the very moment I 
reach the large oho which indicates the beginning of the descent. 
I am alone, and the opportunity for helping myself to some of 
the numerous stones with prayers engraved upon them is too 
good to be resisted. But I had reckoned without the spirit of the 
mountain, who makes my horse so restive that he will not move 
a step forward. I determine to dismount and tie him up some- 
where, but there is nothing to be found which would answer the 
purpose ; so I get up again, and once more endeavour to bring 
him up to the oho, but the noise of the stones striking against 
one another in the wind frightens him again, and, after losing my 
astrachan cap, I have to give up the attempt in despair. All 
these incidents did not prevent us from meeting in the evening 
beneath the willows of Kabchigué-gol. 


/"" ■ 


October 2. — We have remained at this spot for three clays, 
partridges swarming and enabling the guns of our party to 
make large bags; they are grey in colour and very succulent. 
Thrushes, tomtits, and wagtails throng the brushwood and 
trees growing on the mountain-side. We are in the country 
of the Torgots, and the two who have accompanied us have 
their tent in this pass. They are not rich, but own a 
few head of stock — horses, cows, and sheep. They are the 
descendants of the Kalmucks who left the steppes of the Volga 
in 1779, and found their way back after much hardship to the 
land of Hi. Those nomads that we meet have preserved a vague 
tradition of this great exodus, and they tell us that they came 
from the country of the Orosses (Russians), " where we left the 
people of our race. It is about 200 years that we have inhabited 
the Tien Shan." But they can give us no details; they have 
forgotten the sufferings and the energ} r of their ancestors. They 
show us their square caps with flaps for the ears in sheepskin, 
and they assert that this form of headdress comes to them from 
the Russians. This shows how difficult it is to get authentic 
information as to the history of Asia. 

We were not sorry to leave this narrow gorge of the Kabchigué- 
gol, despite its wildness and picturesqueness, and its wonderful 
spring, which cures rheumatism, and which is called Archan 
Buluk, that is to say, "the spring of healing." We meet a few 
patients here, Mongolians of small stature, w^ell built, with very 
small hands and feet — not the broad hands of the toiler, but the 
elongated hands of the unoccupied. Their head is very much 
like a ball which has scarcely had the corners squared off, their 
cheek-bones are prominent, their eyes are imperceptible, and, 
when seen in profile, it is scarcely possible to distinguish the 
nose. A lama owns a small hut near the spring, under an elm- 
tree, and he is at once the consulting physician and the manager 
of this primitive bathing establishment. From him we learned 

AN " OBO. 

that the young Khan, who is the heir of the Torgots, has started 
on a pilgrimage for Thibet. 

Making a start, we emerged from the defile on to the steppe, 
the approach to which was heralded three-quarters of a mile in 
advance by bunches of yaniag, upon which the camels fed with 
manifest delight. The change is a very abrupt one, for all of a 
sudden we are amid stones and saud, with a vast horizon ; the 
temperature has already risen, and while an hour ago the air was 
fresh and pleasant, we now begin to sweat. Marching along 
beside a narrow channel for irrigation, we reached a surface dotted 
with reed-beds, where the Torgots were busy upon the wheat 
harvest, and encamped upon fallow ground, close to a fine elm 
with an oho beside it. Under the shade of the tree is a sort of 
altar/analogous to the ara of the Romans, in the hollow part of 
which we can see ashes and charcoal, odoriferous plants being 
burnt upon it in honour of the divinity. Resting against the 
trunk of the tree is a whole bundle of sticks with rags and slabs 



of wood, with prayers written on them, while in the branches are 
a number of skins of lambs and goats, in an advanced state of 
decomposition, which have been hung there as votive offerings. 
Towards evening, at the hour when one is inclined to reverie, my 
attention is excited by a murmur which seems to be drawing 
nearer and nearer in the tall grass. A man appears, well 
advanced in years, the shoulders bent, and a chaplet in his hand. 
He casts an uneasy glance at me, but without breaking off his 
murmuring, and, standing upright before the obo, he tells his 
beads ; then, going up to the tree, stoops down and rubs his 
forehead with the sap which he has let run on to his fingers from 
the bark. He next picks up two or three leaves, presses them in 
.his hand, and, having again looked at us, makes off without saying 
a word, muttering as he goes, " Om mané pad in é houm " — a phrase 
which thousands of men repeat all their lives without under- 
standing its meaning, but believing that they are ensuring for 






themselves a happy future. In the course of the day Prince Henry 
had great difficulty in photographing some of the Torgots who 
Avere prowling about our bivouac. Only one of them would accept 
the money we offered him as a consideration for giving a sitting. 
They do not understand the box which is turned upon them, and 
they generally make off at the sight of it with terror depicted on 
their countenance. Like children, savages are always afraid of 
what they do not understand ; and if the person photographed 
should happen to fall ill in the conrse of the year, his illness 
would be attributed to "that box the Europeans had with them." 
We observe that the young men in some cases wear a sort of silver 
ornament in the left ear, and we are told that this is an engage- 
ment to marry the girl who has received the fellow-earring 
as a present. 

October 3. — We are again on the steppe, where we see the 
thorny plant which the nomads call touici Jcuiruh (camel's tail) and 
the sweet yantag, on which our camels feed with delight whenever 
they get the chance. Then the approach to the river Cfhadik, 
whose w r aters fall into the lake of Karashar, is announced by tents, 
saklis* and cultivated fields. The Grhadik, as it runs down 
from the Tien Shan, ramifies over a considerable surface, as if 
delighted to be at liberty in the open plain ; and it embraces a 
great number of islands which are almost buried beneath a vegeta- 
tion quickened by periodical inundations. We encamped in the 
tall grass of one of these islands, our tent being shut in by a thick 
grove of willows, elms, tamarisks, jujube and liquorice trees. 
There is no trace of any paths upon this archipelago, for they 
have been effaced by the waters, and we requisitioned some 
Torgots to guide us through the grassy labyrinth. 

We emerged from it in about two hours, after having crossed 

* The name of soldi is given to 1he walled square within which the tents and the 
nocks are enclosed (luring: the winter. In most cases some sort of a shelter or hut is 
built in one corner, which serves as a shed or cooking-place when the cold is very 


several arms of the river, which are very deep at flood-time, and 
which are certainly not ford able then. In fact, we are told that 
when the snows melt, the Ghadik forms a regular lake, with the 
tops of the trees just above the water. The pasturage is excellent, 
and constitutes the wealth of the tribes grouped around the king 
of the Torgots. 

We had no sooner crossed the last irrigating canal which 
derives its waters from the Ghadik than the desert beffan. The 
transition is a very sudden one, and there is a difference of 
temperature before we have gone a hundred yards. Behind us 
the air is moist and comparatively warm, but here it is dry and 
very keen. A path, which has been trodden in b}^ camels at a 
time when the soil was softened by rain, winds its way upwards 
to a deeper depression, running in a S.S.E. direction, in a small 
mountain chain very abrupt and bare. 

Beyond, there is a sort of valley without water, sandy, and 
skirted by elevations of the soil, which are full of deep furrows 
and seem crumbling away, with the appearance of some abandoned 
city whose monuments are falling to ruins. 

Further on, in the land of the black-tree (Kara motoun), a 
name given to a species of elm planted along the irrigating 
watercourses, we again encounter the Torgots. The last of the 
Mongolian Torgots are to be found here ; they cultivate a few 
plots of the land, which is not very fertile, since it is mixed 
with salt. 

A number of tall, well-set-up men, with black bushy beards, 
come round our bivouac ; we have not seen such men since leaving 
Siberia and Kuldja. They enter into conversation with our men 
in Turkish, greeting them in the Mahometan fashion, and one of 
them at once makes off, and speedily returns with some melons 
which recall those of Turkestan by their oblong shape and delicious 
taste. We all of us — French, Bussians, Tarantshis, Kirghis, and 
Uzbegs — are pleased at this meeting with men whom we feel to 


be closer to us than the Mongols. We feel as if we had met 
some old acquaintances, and a very merry evening" is passed. 

If the principle of nationalities — determined by unity of 
language — ever prevails among those who speak Turkish, if a 
kingdom be reconstituted out of the scattered members of 
this great nation, the monarch or the caliph of it will never see 
the sun set upon his dominions, and will command a countless 
host of valiant warriors. But they would be scattered over more 
than three-fourths of the surface of the Old World, and this 
would render it difficult to mobilise them in the event of war. 

October 5.- — To-day we have entered upon the last stage which 
separates us from Kourla. We again traversed a corner of the 
desert, and, as yesterday, low chains of crumbling marl, also 
having the aspect of turrets, cupolas, and mausoleums. Before 
getting near to the Kontshé-Darya, on a height commanding a 
full view of the plain, we could distinguish the remains of a 
fort of dry brick built by Yakoob the " blessed one," also 
surnamed " the dancer " by the people of the Ferghana. 

This man was made in the mould to do great things, and 
Prjevalsky was struck with his intelligence when he had an 
interview with him at Kourla in 1877. The good fortune 
of Yakoob was prodigious, though his rise was slow, for he 
was a man of mature age when he became master of Kashgar 
and Chinese Turkestan. During the few years that he 
governed this country he displayed no ordinary activity, 
covering it with useful buildings, tracing canals, and organising 
an army after the European model, having recruited, through 
the medium of the Sultan, officers in all countries of Europe. 
Several came from Turkey, and -a member of the present French 
Chamber of Deputies was on the point of being employed by 
Yakoob. Heaven only knows what would have happened if 
this hardy Uzbeg had not been checked in his career. He would 
certainly have got together the " twelve thousand good soldiers " 


whom Lord Hastings in his day considered sufficient for the con- 
quest of China (this was Prjevalsky's estimate also of what would 
be required), and we should have witnessed the constitution of a 
Turco-Mongolian State, which would have extended from the 
Terek-Davan, at the north of the Pamir, to the gulf of Petchili. 
But Allah had decided that Yakoob was not to go bevond 
Kourla, and it was there that he closed his interesting career, in 
the fortress built by him, which still exists. He died of poison, 
administered by his Prime Minister, to whom the Chinese made 
alluring promises, which they took good care not to keep. 

In Yakoob's lifetime the people were dissatisfied at having 
been aroused out of the state of torpor so agreeable to the people 
of Asia. Now this same people, which is under the administra- 
tion of the Chinese, regrets the " good time " of the Bacloulet 
(the "blessed one"), who is spoken of as having been a great 
man, while the bakshi sing his great deeds at the festivals. They 
are so anxious for a fresh master that they ask us, hailing 
as we do from the West, if "the Eussians are soon coming to 
take us ? " 





Kourla — Tn the Bazaar — Provisioning the Caravan— Parpa — Visit from the Ahim of Kourla : 
A " Mandarinade " — Tchinagi — Music in the Camp— A Forest of Poplars— Crossing 
the Kontché-Darya and the Intchigué-Darya — Aktarma— The River Tarim — The " Silk 
Plant" — Arkan— Hard Words and Blows Compared — Talkitchin — The Last of the Tarim 
—At Tcharkalik. 

October 6. — Kourla is a small 
town situated in a fine oasis. It is 
traversed by the Kontché-Daiwa, 
over which a wooden bridge has 
been built, connecting the suburbs 
on the left bank with the bazaars 
and the fortress on the right. The 
population is a mixture of Chinese, 
Dungans, and Tarantshis ; but, 
as the Mussulmans form the ma- 
jority, the chief of the town (the 
Akim) is of that persuasion. It 
was he who came and laid siege to 


us upon our arrival, not giving us 
time to enjoy the satisfactions and 
pleasures which an oasis always offers to those who have 
crossed the desert. And Kourla is charming, with its gardens, 
its green trees, its fine river, and its bazaars, where are to be 
found melons, apples, figs, grapes, and apricots, which nomads 
like ourselves find so delicious. 

We arrived last night, having done a stage of nearly thirty- 
five miles. We are lodged in the house of a Mussulman, who 
is a Eussian subject and a merchant in the town. 


To-day we received a great many inquisitive visitors. We 
learn that the authorities are summoned to meet at the 
y amen in the evening to take counsel together concerning us, 
and the chief asks permission to pay us a visit to-morrow 

We find ourselves in the first bazaar we have seen since we 
left Kuldja, and we shall not encounter another after we make a fresh 
start. So we buy and buy in preparation for Thibet, and, without 
losing an hour, hire twenty-two camels to carry our purchases. 
Among these purchases are 1,600 Bussian pounds of bread, 
done down in fat and salt, made up into small cakes about as 
thick as the finger and as broad as the palm of a man's hand. 
The reason of their being made so small is that a biscuit of this 
size is easy to stow away ; it can, if necessary, be placed up the 
sleeve on the march, for it may happen that while one is munching 
it one may have to pick up one's gun or whip. Moreover, it repre- 
sents in size almost exactly what the appetite at such a time de- 
mands, and not an atom is lost. The salt aids the digestion, and 
the fat is, of course, a preventive against cold. The purchases also 
include 520 pounds of the best flour, which will be kejDt in reserve, 
for we shall only use these provisions at the last extremity ; 280 
pounds of mutton, salted and done up in skins; 160 pounds of 
small raisins, very delicate in flavour, with no pips, called 
" kishmish," which will be mixed with rice, and only distributed 
later, when the cold, the salt meat, the forced marches, and 
the great altitude have brought about that state of weakness 
which is so like scurvy ; 80 pounds of salt, though we are pretty 
safe to find plenty in the desert, on the surface of the soil, 
or on the shores of the lakes ; 80 pounds of sesamum oil for 
hasty puddings ; tobacco, bags, pieces of felt, and 6,000 pounds 
of barley for our horses, although the interpreter Abdullah, and a 
man named Parpa, an inhabitant of Kourla, tell us that we need 
not concern ourselves about them. 



The manParpa was formerly in the service of Carey and Dalgleish, 
the English travellers, and we have engaged him in the hope that 
he will furnish us with useful information. This adventurer, 
with a long black beard, very taciturn, and with a tragic air, is 
a native of the Ferghana, who came with Yakoob-Beg into 


Chinese. Turkestan. He gets the horses shod, makes saddles for 
the camels, and has the reputation of being a brave man. 

The preparations are rapidly completed ; we have treated with 
a Dungan whom we are to pay a high price, but he will bring 
with him three servants, two Dungans, and a Turkish Mussul- 
man from the oasis of Hami. 

October 7. — Returning to the house to-day, we find the 
servants of the Akim, who announce the coming of their master. 
Soon afterwards there arrive, followed by an escort, some man- 
darins, dressed in the Mahometan style, but with the Chinese 
headdress, a globular hat, and wearing the pigtail which is the 



mark of vassaldom that the Chinese exact from the, Mahometans, 
whose head is generally shaved. These head men of the town, 
most of them advanced in years, enter our room. We offer them 


seats on the white felt which has been unrolled for them, and 
wait for them to question us, without uttering a word. They 
begin the conversation in Chinese, politely asking as to our health, 
congratulating us upon having made a safe journey, and promising 


us their help. Between whiles their attendants place before 
us an offering of dried fruits, melons, and almonds, in accordance 
with the custom of Turkestan. We thank them with the 
utmost cordiality for their good nature, and wait to see what is 
to follow. It is easy to see that the chiefs are somewhat em- 
barrassed ; they exchange a few words, and then the one who is 
highest in rank begins to make a rather solemn speech, point- 
ing out that it is a habit to ask strangers for their papers. To 
which I reply that it is a very good custom, as it is impossible to 
take too man}' precautions with regard to strangers who come on 
to the territory of others. As concerns ourselves, he has seen by 
our cards on red paper, and written in Chinese characters, that 
one of us is a prince allied to the Kings of the West, and he 
must be aware the White Pasha has facilitated our passage 
through his States; and we hope the Emperor of China will 
not be less obliging. Although we did not understand why 
papers should be demanded of us at Kourla, after we had been 
allowed to cross the frontier and go through the province of Hi, 
we were willing, in order to please him, as he was so kind to us, 
to let him have the general pass, which had been seen by the 
Governor of the province of Hi. He asked our leave to keep it, 
which we gave all the more readily because we know from 
Prjevalsky and others that in China papers are only of service 
at places where they are not required. After an interchange of 
respectful and dignified greetings the chiefs went off. 

What will happen to-morrow ? We foresee complications, and 
Rachmed, who is much affected by all this, fully realises our 
position. He says, " It is the beginning of the ' old story ' ; the 
Chinese are going to bother us as much as they can. It is not 
surprising on the part of people who eat pork." And so liachmed 
rattles on, loading with opprobrium this people, which allows its 
women to have wooden legs, which emits an odour intolerable to 
a true Mussulman, and so on. 


The chief result of this interview is to make us hurry forward 
our preparations, for we have seen the advance-guard to-day; the 
declaration of war will be brought to us to-morrow. 

The same evening before sunset the chiefs of Kourla arrive in 
full dress, and, almost before the greetings have been exchanged 
and the cups of tea served, the Akim tells us to visit the 
Governor of Karashar before continuing our journey. We reply 
that the Governor is a person of too little consequence for us to 
turn aside from our route to go and see him. "If he wishes to 
say anything to us, let him come and say it. Moreover, he must 
have seen our papers." 

" Your papers are of no value, and, to tell you the truth, here 
is the order to arrest you which has arrived at Karashar from 

We display great surprise at this, and ask him to let one of 
our men read the order. And then the conversation is resumed 
as follows : 

" Where is our pass then ? " 

" At Karashar." 

" Well, we shall keep your order until you have restored the 
paper we confided to you, for you have it in your possession, and 
you are not speaking the truth." 

I accordingly take the order, put it into my pocket, and 
request them to go. 

The small Chinese mandarin who had brought it gets 
as pale as his yellow complexion permits, and begs us to 
restore it, making a motion with his hand across his throat as 
much as to say that he will lose his head if he does not get the 
order back. I repeat that he shall have it if they restore us 
our pass, and when they again deny having it we make them 
leave, saying that the sun has set, and we want to rest. 

They go off crestfallen, and a few minutes later one of the 
chiefs returns, holding the pass in his hand. He offers it to 



us and we take it back, promising to restore him his order, but 
not till the next day, in order that we may have it photographed. 


This photograph is reproduced above, and the translation has been 
made by the Marquis d'Hervey de St. Denys. It is as follows : — 
" I, Han, sub-prefect, having the honorary title of Fou-tchi, 
fulfilling the duties of prefect of the district of Kola-Chacul 
(Karashar), have received from the temporary governor Wei an 
order thus conceived : 'At the present time, a prince of the 


blood in the kingdom of France, Ken-li-ho (Henry), travelling 
without a Chinese passport and on his own initiative, is making 
toward Lo-pou-ta-cul (Lob Nor). I order the local authorities, 
in no matter what place the French prince may be found, to 
prevent him from continuing his route and to turn him back.' 
In consequence of this order my duty is to send out agents to 
gather information, and I accordingly direct two agents to 
proceed at once to Kou-cul-li (Kourla), and to act in concert 
with the Mussulman chiefs of this locality in order to inspect 
the country. If the French prince is met, his progress must be 
arrested, and he must be prevented from penetrating any farther 
and compelled to turn back. The agents must not be guilty of 
negligence or delay, under pain of incurring penalties. This 
must not be disobeyed. Twice recommended, and his instructions 
are given to Tchang-Youy, and to A-li. They will take care to 
conform to them. The eighth day of the ninth moon of the 
fifteenth year of Kouang-Sin. Yalid until the return, to be 
afterwards given back and annulled." 

I might, with reference to this order, say a good deal as to 
the perfidy of the Chinese with regard to Europeans of all kinds, 
even to Europeans who have behaved generously towards man- 
darins. But it would be a waste of space, for in the course of 
this narrative the reader will have opportunities of appreciating 
at its proper value the administration of provinces remote from 
the frontier and the coast. On the northern frontier, one 
encounters, side by side with the mandarins, Russian consuls who 
command not only respect but obedience, while on the coast there 
are consuls and persons of all nationalities who maintain amicable 
relations with the mandarins. But in the interior of the empire 
the situation is not the same. 

October 8. — The chiefs of Kourla, with the Akivi at their head, 
return to see us again, and we restore to them the order. They re- 
peat that we cannot continue our route. We reply that nothing 


will stop lis from going to the Lob Nor, where we wish to enjoy 
the chase. When we are ready, we shall load our beasts and 
start, and if any effort is made to stop us by force there will 
be bloodshed, and the blood will be upon their heads. We 
are not evil-doers ; we do no harm to anyone, and why should 
we not enjoy the immunities accorded to the smallest of traders? 
We tell the Akim that this is our ultimatum, and bid him 
reflect. He hangs his head down, and, dropping the Chinese 
language in his emotion, says in his native Turkish : — " I am 
only executing the orders given me. I do not wish you any 
harm. I can see you are not bad people. What would you 
have me do? I am in a cruel position, for my life is at stake. 
Truly, I am like the nut between two stones ; by Allah, I am ! " 

And he heaves a sigh which does not seem to be affected. 

" Help me," he went on to say. " I will go to Karashar and 
see my superior. Let one of your party come with me; he will 
explain things, and, by the help of Allah, matters will all be 

" It is impossible to do as you ask, Akim," I reply, " for the 
explanations are already given. We do not in any way recognise 
your sub-prefect ; and the step would be quite useless, for if one 
of us were to go to Karashar and your superior persisted in 
stopping us, we should start just the same." 

The chief and his companions then rose and took leave of us. 

October 9. — A fresh visit from the Akim, who insists, with a 
pretty firm air, upon our retracing our steps. Upon our cate- 
gorically refusing, he gets up, without pressing the matter any 
further, and says that he shall have to resort to force — a threat 
which makes us laugh. 

The Aksakal of the Russian subjects in Kourla then inter- 
venes, and tells us that he has been threatened with having a 
chain put round his neck and being dragged off to Karashar if he 
lends us assistance. A strong force arrives from Karashar to 


reinforce the feeble garrison of Kourla, which consisted of sixty 
soldiers, who seem to us more or less stupefied with opium. 

We hurry on our preparations for starting. The purchases 
are completed, the saddles for the camels are sewn, and there is 
nothing to delay us any longer. At nightfall a delegation of 
chiefs, comprising the Aksakal, come and make a formal remon- 
strance with us, but at last they see that we are firmly resolved 
not to let ourselves be stopped. 

After supper we let the men sleep until midnight, and 
then wake them up and give them orders to get all the loads 
ready, and not to utter a word. All the preliminaries of the start 
are soon got through. A few hours later I get up without 
making the slightest noise, and satisfy myself that for the nonce 
the soundest sleepers have sharp ears. 

October 10. — At daylight all our camels and horses are ready, 
well shod and well saddled. The news of our starting soon 
spreads through the town, and the caravan is organised in the 
presence of a multitude which invades our courtyard, and which 
we are obliged to drive out with a good stout stick. Some pick- 
pockets have managed to sneak up to our things and steal what- 
ever they can conceal about their persons. We prevent the 
recurrence of this by creating a void about us. Our attitude is, 
at the same time, a warning to the mandarins that we are 
prepared for any eventuality, as yesterday. 

Having been sent to the bazaar to procure a few delicacies, 
our Chinaman returns and says that the merchants are of opinion 
that the Akim has arranged the matter very well, since he has 
induced us to write to Karashar. I forgot to mention yester- 
day that we had promised to send a few lines of explanation 
to the sub-prefect of Karashar. In this letter, which was 
translated into Turkish and Chinese, we stated our intention 
of going to shoot in the neighbourhood of the Lob Nor, where 
we should remain long enough for all the necessary papers 


to arrive from Pekin or elsewhere. The Akivis friends consider 
that he has managed matters very adroitly, that he has gained a 
diplomatic victory ; in short, to use the language of the country, 
that " he has had the wit to preserve the face and to add a plume 
to his hat." 

The loading of the beasts of burden is completed, the presents 
have been distributed to our hosts and acquaintances, the men leap 
into the saddle and raise their hands to their beards, exclaiming, 
" Allah is great ! " And so en route for the Lob Nor. 

Two of our men who are riding the best horses go on in front. 
They are told not to lose sight of the leading camel-driver, and I 
can see them both. In case of an alarm they are to gallop back to 
us. When we get close to the gate, Eachmed will go on ahead 
of all the rest, to see for himself. Now the caravan gets into 
motion, and proceeds slowly along the street ; the camels pack as 
close to one another as they can, and, swinging their necks and 
rolling from side to side, they methodically stretch out their 
long legs, quite indiffèrent to the teasing of the Chinese, but 
feeling perhaps the warmth of the superb autumn sun. 

On such a delightful day I feel that nothing unpleasant can 
occur to us ; Nature is too bright and smiling for that. While 
the camels are chewing the cud after their meal of the sweet 
morning grass, I am ruminating on what remains to be done, and 
rejoicing inwardly at having begun the second stage of our journey, 
which will terminate at the Lob Nor. While watching the idlers 
posted on the roofs, and the women with unveiled faces who are 
peeping through the half-open doors, replying at the same time 
by a salaam to the salaam of a boy with a merry and good- 
humoured face, and by a brandishing of my whip to another not 
so well-behaved, I am reminded of similar starts from similar 
countries, and my imagination travels at a bound to Turkestan, 
Bokhara, and Khiva. I note here the same faces, the same 
gestures, the same attitudes as there. I can distinguish the 

V * 

! '-j.> : 


same odours emitted from the houses, and the vast firmament 
over our heads is of the same inimitable blue, which even the 
turquoise cannot reproduce. It seems impossible that our 
journey should be rudely interrupted, commenced as it is in such 
bright sunshine ; the earth presents itself under too smiling an 
aspect to deceive us afterwards. 

Tor a little way we skirted the crenellated walls of the 
town, against which are built various earthen huts with creepers 
growing up them, and then we said good-bye to Kourla and 
made southward. The road which leads out of the oasis is 
dusty, and branches out into paths which get lost in the 
desert, as rivulets exhaust a river before it has reached the end 
of its course. 

On arriving at the last of the saklis, we bought some sheep from 
a friend of the Aksakal of the Russian subjects. Although we are 
certain of having enough to feed men and beasts as far as the 
Lob Nor, it is as well to have with one a small flock of fat 
sheep, as a matter of precaution ; this, again, will enable us to 
purchase others of the natives at a lower figure for our daily con- 
sumption, for when they see that we are not at their mercy, they 
will not put up their prices. 

October 11. — We had loaded some of our camels when we saw 
the dust rising on the plain in the direction of Kourla, and 
presently recognised the chiefs of Kdurla in full dress, accom- 
panied by several horsemen. When they got close to our 
bivouac, they politely dismounted, and one of their attendants 
came to ask for an audience on the part of his masters. This 
we at once granted, and the chiefs advanced with a certain 
degree of haste, no doubt to signify thereby that they were 
under the influence of some strong emotion. They had smiling 
faces, they shook hands cordially with us, and leaned forward as 
they did so, their whole attitude being one of sympathy. They 
had no sooner seated themselves on the white felt which had been 



laid clown in their honour, the younger ones remaining [on'their 
feet out of deference, than they hastened to tell us that they had 



come as friends, and that they wished us a safe journey and good 
health. They had been compelled to execute the orders sent from 


Karashar, but had done so much against their own inclina- 
tions. They could see very clearly that we were great personages 
and honest people. One of them invited us to believe that the 
Akim was a very good fellow ; another whispered into the ear of 
one of our men that we should do well to mark our gratitude and 
forgiveness by a few little presents, such as our hosts at Kourla 
had received the day before. 

We thanked them politely and gave orders for presents to be 
handed to the chiefs as souvenirs of our visit, and at the same 
time asked for a guide to introduce us to the people we should 
meet on the way, and who would facilitate the passage of the 
Kontché-Darya, a river which has no bridges or ferries, and which 
has to be crossed on a raft. 

We were at once furnished with a man of about sixty, named 
Ata Rachmed, the same who formerly accompanied Prjevalsky in 
his excursion to the Lob Nor. Our interpreter, Abdullah, recog- 
nised him and assured us that Rachmed was the best of men. 
Formerly attached to the person of Yakoob, he passed into the 
service of the AJcivi of Kourla. 

After having received our small gifts, the chiefs rose to their 
feet, wished us a safe journey once more, and pressed our hands 
very effusively ; they then mounted their horses and cantered back 
towards Kourla, while we packed up our things, and regained 
our cavavan, which was making its way towards the like village 
of Tchinagi. 

Such is the end of what I must style a " mandarinade," for 
this is the only name to give to the series of worries to which 
the Chinese mandarins treat Europeans in order to prove to them 
that China possesses an " administration." I have related this 
incident too much in detail, perhaps ; but I believe that I shall 
have done a service to future travellers by showing that it is not 
well to be alarmed at the threats of the mandarins, and that one 
may travel pretty comfortably in this region of the Chinese 


Empire, always provided that one keeps clear of the large 
cities, where a countless population does not scruple to commit 
acts of cowardice and ferocity with the certainty of escaping 

After nine or ten miles of the desert, we bivouacked near the 
village of Tchinagi, on the banks of a canal planted with willows. 

At Tchinagi the aged A ta Rachmed got together a score of 
woebegone men, whom we promised to pay well if they would help 
us to construct our rafts on the Kontché-Darya. Among the 
number was one who had the broad face of the Kirghis, the same 
small eyes, scanty beard, and guttural way of speaking. On being 
questioned, he told us that he was a native of the neighbour- 
hood of Semipalatinsk, and that, having come into the country 
in Yakoob-Beg's time, with one of his brothers, he had married 
there and settled in it. " That's like me," exclaimed our Russian, 
Borodjin ; " I served at Kuldja and then at Djarkent, where I 
married, and I never returned home to Tobolsk." I note this 
trifling incident in order to point out that on many occasions 
I have observed that Russians and Turks move from place to 
place very readily, and especially that they soon abandon all 
idea of returning to their native country, even when they have 
left it more or less under compulsion. To inhabitants of the vast 
and monotonous plain, with horizons as boundless as those of 
the sea, it matters little at what point of the ocean — for such 
the plain really is — they may live ; they want only a few birch- 
trees, lighting up the landscape with their silver trunks, a 
river full of fish, the banks of which, covered with reeds, give 
shelter to water-fowl and wild boars, and with that a few 
patches of cultivated ground around the small wooden or earthen 

The inhabitants of Tchinagi, who resemble the Sarthians of 
Turkestan, say that they came from Andidjan — that is to say, 
from Ferghana — about a hundred years ago. This does not mean 


anything definite, for Eastern people, as I have said, are 
incredibly negligent as to dates. 

An old man talked to us of Russians whom he had seen in 
the country, and we know, as a matter of fact, that some of the 
Old Believers came as far as the Lob Nor in search of land a long 
time ago. Then we listened to some singers who played upon a 
two-stringed guitar, and, as we were free in distributing tea and 
rice, a good part of the village surrounded us, our men dancing to 
the sound of the accordion, after the custom of their country, and 
the evening passing in festivity. Even our old camel-driver, carried 
away by the music, executed a rude sort of a dance with his 
feeble legs, the Chinaman being the only one who did not stir. 
Upon our asking him to give us a specimen of the dancing in his 
district, he replied : — 

" Oh, we don't dance ; we amuse ourselves by sitting down 
and doing nothing." 

" And what is your music like ? " 

" Oh ! our music is very similar to that which you hear." 
And he endeavours to prove this by singing an air, but the 
effort is so unmusical, despite his extreme seriousness, that we 
cannot help laughing outright. It does not take much to amuse 

After having crossed a strip of desert, we soon reach a regular 
forest of poplars. But they are not the same trees as the French 
poplars ; for these grow on the sand, the bark is all wrinkled, and 
the hollow trunks are covered all over with bindweed. Their 
foliage varies very much, for the leaves are oblong in the lower 
branches, and resemble those of the willow, while above they are 
like those of the ordinary poplar. It is with these trees that we 
shall have to construct our rafts, and this will increase the diffi- 
culty not a little, for this Populus diversifolia is porous and dry 
internally, although its bark is extremely hard, while if it remains 
long in the water it sinks to the bottom. 


On the advice of an old man, who directs the work, 
and who swears by his white beard, three rows of beams 
are placed one upon the other ; they are tied together and 
flanked by thick bundles of reeds, so as to elevate the floating" 
line. The raft will only be put into the water at the last moment. 
In this conjuncture our Russians, accustomed to the water, like all 
their fellow-countrymen, are very useful to us. As to Eachmed, 
who has nearly been drowned on several occasions, and who has a 
horror of all kinds of navigation, he bemoans his fate, and implores, 
with a very comical face, to be allowed to retrace his steps, for 
he is sure he shall be drowned. 

October 12. — The evening is spent in getting together the 
trees which have been cut in the forest, or which have been 
hidden away on the river-banks. They have already been used for 
making rafts, and the natives drag them to our camp with oxen. 

October 13. — The smaller baggage is loaded in canoes, and 
a sort of ferry is organised by means of rafts. The raft is covered 
with earth to place our camels under the illusion that they are 
on terra firm a. They are not at all fond of the water, and it is 
even necessary, in order ito get them on to the raft, to prepare a 
sort of landing-stage with stakes and faggots, for the bank is steep. 
At the first attempt we succeed in getting two camels on to the 
raft ; we keep their heads down by pulling at the ring placed in 
their noses. The raft is pulled across by a rope, and when the 
passengers have been landed, it is brought back to the landing- 
stage by means of another rope. But this time there is the 
greatest difficulty in getting a camel to advance ; persuasion, 
ruse, and blows are alike powerless, and at last the beast has to 
be carried. But it slips backwards, its hind legs dropping into 
the water, while the rest of its body remains on the raft, and in 
this posture it is pulled across, like a schoolboy lolling over his 
desk. So we go on until they have all been got over, the horses 
as well as 1he sheep -swimming across. 



This operation lasts all day, and the work is accomplished in 
very good humour, the Mussulmans sandwiching between it the 
prayers to which they are called by their mollah. 

The natives again speak to us of Yakoob-Beg, and it is 
clear they regret him very much. They would like to be 



delivered from the Chinese, who, they /-say, " eat dogs, and even 

By nightfall the crossing of the Kontché-Darya is com- 
pleted, and we distribute numerous " tips " to the workmen who 
have been employed, leaving them also a couple of sheep. 

As the Huns and the Tartars mostly had horses, they were 
able to cross the rivers and streams pretty easily. The armies 
which possessed elephants could soon construct rafts, as these 
animals could drag trees along with their trunks, and probably 
hauled the baggage, and even people, as almost certainly happened 
with Hannibal in crossing the Bhone. The camel of Central 


Asia is made for a desert Avithout water, and lie only likes 
rivers that he may drink greedily of them. 

We make for the Lob Nor by the itinerary which Prjevalsky 
and Carey followed. At times, however, we are obliged to 
diverge from it, as inundations have modified the aspect of the 
country, and we prefer making a détour if we can thereby avoid 
constructing a raft. 

October 14. — Our route lies through the iougrah woods, which 
give a little variety to the violet tamarisk-trees. These tougraks, 
or poplars, are burnt in many places. Flocks of sheep have been 
roaming through the woods, and traces of them are visible upon 
the saline soil, into which the foot sinks as into ashes covered 
over with a light crust. The trees are less thick on the sand- 
hills, for in this region a great many people come and go. In 
the afternoon we cross the Intchigué-Darya, a small river which 
forms another arm of the Tarim, but the crossing is effected by 
a bridge, which is repaired to admit of the camels going over 
it. In the evening we encamp at Goumbas, near a piece of 
water on a bare hill. The natives bring us some trout, and 
are very well satisfied with the j>ieces of money which we 
give them. For our bivouac we prefer a clearing where the 
breeze will rid us of the mosquitoes, which bite^us to death, even 
under our coverings. There is an abundance of waterfowl, wild 
geese, ducks, teal, and cormorants in the reed-beds. This region 
is very sparsely inhabited. 

October 15. — To-day we start for Aktarma, which is noted on 
Prjevalsky 's map. It is always the same saixhy desert, which 
reminds some of us of the Gobi in Mongolia, others of the Kara 
Koum. Like the latter, it is dotted over with numerous 
tamarisk-trees, which have helped to consolidate the sand-hills. 
The wind and the shrub are at war with each other, the latter 
seeking to retain by means of its roots the moving surface of the 
desert, clutching, as it were with tentacles, little heaps of sand 


and solidifying them, while the dust whirls round and the wind 
converts it into a diminutive piece of artillery for besieging the 
fortress. The pools are very numerous, lending to the plants 
the sustenance of their moisture, and making the struggle less 

Coming to our first halt, we are advised to make to our 
right, in a westerly direction, and we thread our way between 
pools and pieces of water which remind one of fragments of 
river Avhich have suddenly come to a stop, for, when the 
wind ruffles the water, one would imagine that it was flowing, 
while when the wind drops it is still. But our horizon, up 
to the present rather narrow, opens out ; and the plain upon 
which we enter is, as we are told, that of Koul toukmit Koul. 
We see green djicldas of a very respectable size, while the 
prickly broom waves its white tufts in the depression of the 
soil, and between the low sand-hills runs a fine stream of clear 
water glistening in the sunlight. This is the Tarim, which flows 
along, as if fatigued by its long journey, towards the Lob Nor. 
One can guess without much difficulty that a large lake, or a 
number of pools, will be formed, for this river has no outlet into 
the ocean. 

Marching away from the Tarim, in the afternoon we arrive 
at Aktarma, indicated in the desert by groups of poplars. A 
herd of cattle announce our approach in a very disagreeable 
manner, for they make a stampede in front of us, raising a column 
of dust. They are animals of very small stature, and exceed- 
ingly agile. We see men cultivating small patches of ground 
impregnated with salt, not far from the score or so of huts which 
constitute what is one of the most important towns of the Tarim. 
These huts, made of reeds twisted into hurdles and mud, are for 
the present deserted. 

The chief of Aktarma, surrounded by his council, offers us 
some very insipid melons, and inquires after our health. These 



people are very frightened and suspicious, like the true savages 
they are ; they have round heads and eyes, appearing to be the 
produce of unions between the most divergent tribes, all that they 
have in common being their savage and poverty-stricken mien. 


One would imagine them to be outlaws who had come from all 
parts, and who had settled here from weariness of wandering. 
They assert that they are Kalmucks by descent, but they speak 
Turkish. Abdullah, who wants to ingratiate himself with them, 
says that he is himself a Kalmuck, and that the Emir Timour was 
also a Kalmuck, whence it is to be concluded, judging by the 
tone of our interpreter, that this nation has possessed at least two 
PTeat men — the Emir Timour, long since defunct, and Abdullah, 
our interpreter, the greediest of created beings, who ask them 
to give him some melons for his own consumption, and who will 
fall ill from eating too many. 


October 16. — We halt all to-day. As the village remains 
deserted, the news of our arrival has, perhaps, frightened away 
the people of Aktarma. But it would appear that at this season 
the population migrates with its flocks and herds to the banks 
of the Tarim and its pools, men, women, and children fishing, 
shooting, and drying fish for the winter, while the cattle and 
sheep are feeding. 

Beyond the wood men are at work digging the ground with 
the same simple implement which one meets with among all 
primitive peoples, consisting of two pieces of wood. The savages 
invented it first of all for delving into the earth and robbing it of 
its treasures. Here the people grow wheat, but not enough for 
their food ; they have, therefore, to go and buy more at Kourla, 
where they sell sheepskins, dried fish, and a coarse sort of cloth. 
They grow a little barley for their horses, which, though not 
numerous, are sturdy and good for their size. 

October 17. — The plain across which we are travelling, with 
its grey October sk} r , forms a typical Pomeranian landscape, and 
one might fancy oneself on the shores of the Baltic or of the 
North Sea. The horizon is flat, water extends everywhere, and 
the lowlands seem to be floating on the surface, while the banks 
of the river are too low to regulate its course. It seems as 
though a mere scratch would suffice to open a way for the Tarim. 
The stream is constantly overflowing, or rather it spreads out and 
forms pools or lakes in a hundred-different spots, as is evidenced 
by the name of the village of Yangi Koul (the "new lake"). 
We approach this place along a dusty road, shaded b}^ reed-beds 
and thorns, and running through ground with a good deal of salt 
on the surface ; and we have to wind in and out so as to avoid the 
water. The village is perched upon the slope of a sandhill on the 
opposite bank, and the walls of the houses, very irregularly built, 
look as if they were slipping down towards the river. Our arrival 
brings out the whole population, which comes to take a good look 


at us while we are having 1 our tea. The women alone do not 
cross the stream, which is nearly 500 feet wide, but men and boys 
jump into the water and tuck up their clothes so as to reach the 
mole of sand which lines the course of the Tarim. The well-to- 
do, who have boots or shoes on their feet, get themselves carried 
across, or come over in canoes. They bring presents with them, 
including fish, both fresh and preserved. One lad has brought a 
wild goose alive, and when, while refusing it, we make him a 
present, he shows our gift to the others, and the ice is broken. 

The natives come so close that I have time to examine them, 
and can see that they are a mixture of all races, with noses and 
eyes of all shapes and colours, as in any large town in the West. 
I detect some typical Kirghis, thick-set, with scarcely perceptible 
eyes, salient cheek-bones, and scanty beards ; Sarthians with finer 
figures, and black, bushy beards, while grey eyes are not rare. 
A fair man with a very fresh complexion and light eyes wears a 
turned-up cap on his head, and the Siberians themselves are 
struck by his resemblance to a Russian. Moreover, we are told 
that the Russians have been here. 

Our presence excites the greatest curiosity, and the canoes are 
kept busy, bringing the whole of the male population ; while the 
women, clustering on the opposite bank, watch the spectacle, and 
doubtless wish that the etiquette of their sex did not prevent 
them from coming across. These people bring us some excellent 
melons and boiled fish, the meal being hurriedly prepared for 
us. When we eat, the crowd kneel down and watcli us with 
almost reverent interest. They exchange remarks in a low tone, 
and appear very pleased to see us, but one of them observes : 
" Had } r ou been Chinese, we should have made off." After 
making a few presents, we encamped some distance farther on, on 
high ground, which is rather drier. 

October 13. — We traverse Ouloug Kdul, where the chief, a 
Kirghis by descent, accords us a hearty reception in his house, 


made of withes plastered with mud. He has some furniture in 
his house, including a wooden X on which, the Koran is 
placed, a mat which he unrolls, and which serves both as cloth 
and table, cushions made out of real silk taken from the stem of 
the tcldga {asclejrias) , and bags made of a sort of wild hemp 
which is very abundant in this region. He drinks his tea out 
of Kashgar cups, and has several wives, being altogether an 
important personage. Although we decline his proffered sheep, 
we offer him in return a present; it is always well to encourage 
generous intentions when one is travelling. 

We were able to observe here the action of the wind upon the 
sands of the Tarim : they are being slowly driven towards the 
north-west, for the prevailing wind is the south-east, though 
one from the south-west is said to blow occasionally. The aged 
chief who gives us this information tells us that the people 
pay a tax every year to the Chinese, he acting as intermediary 
between the former and the chief at Kourla. The impost is 
levied upon the crops and the stock, a tenth of the former and a 
fortieth part of the latter. 

October 19. — The route does not vary. Whenever we quit 
the banks of the river we return to the desert, through planta- 
tions where the tougrah trees, exuding their sap, which the 
natives employ as soap, lift their contorted heads, and past 
undulating sandhills driven along by the wind, but at so slow a 
pace that the natives do not notice- their advance until after many 
years. The incidents of the route are the occasional securing of 
a bird or a mammal, which goes to enrich our collection. Game 
is fairly abundant. First it is an antelope which springs up 
within shot, and is bagged, or our menu is varied by a hare 
or by Mongolian pheasants. Then we see a wolf, at first 
mistaken for a dog, stealing through the rushes, or the fresh 
trace of a tiger, which makes us take extra precautions at night. 
We come across European birds, too, such as fieldfares and larks, 


while there is no lack of waterfowl. We have excellent camping- 
ground, though the water is often bad, and not a day passes that 
it does not make some of our men ill. They are forbidden to 
drink water on the road, unless it is running, and even in that 
case it is necessary to be very careful, for there are rapid 
rivers which are more or less poisoned by the vegetable matter 
in their beds, and by other plants which, growing on the banks, 
die and fall in, undergoing decomposition and sowing the germs 
of disease. 

October 20. — -A strong wind from the south-west brings a 
little snow by way of warning that winter is at hand, and as we 
sit round the fires at night the conversation turns upon the loft}'" 
plateaus. Our interpreter in his vanity exaggerates the difficulties 
of the route, for, as he is the only person who has gone through 
a winter in these regions, he regards himself as a being of some 
special essence. In the village of Tchigali we halt in the hut of 
the chief. This village received its name from the abundance 
of tchigas which the natives found when they settled here. 
Wherever we go we encounter this plant, as well as the poplar, 
the tamarisk, and the jujube-tree, and it gives a special character 
to the valley of the Tarim. 

October 21. — Before entering the desert, which has to be 
crossed to get to Aïriligane, we go through regular fields of 
tcliiga. Of this the natives weave garments, the work being 
always executed by women. The grains of the " silk plant," as 
the asclepias of Europe is called, are surmounted by a silky 
substance as soft to the touch as the finest velvet. Cushions are 
manufactured from it, and it also makes a very soft bed for 
children ; and when the dark and hard pod which contains the 
grains is pressed, these emerge all at once in the shape of a bouquet 
of great delicacy, as under the influence of a magician's wand. 

October 22. — The event of to-day is the visit of a chief who 
offers us presents consisting of melons, fish, onions, and carrots. 


The carrots excite general enthusiasm, it being a long time 
since we had seen any of these excellent vegetables. 

October 23. — We are still in the desert, and can see the 
Tarim flowing lazily along between its banks, all white with salt. 
We kill an enormous wild boar and some gazelles. The day is 
a magnificent one, after a minimum of 16° of frost at night, 
whereas during the day the temperature rises to 79° in the |shade. 
The sky is overcast, and with the aspect of autumn we have the 
warmth of spring. 

October 24.— Once more we are on the banks of one of the 
branches of the Tarim, and have no difficulty in constructing 
two rafts, one with a treble row of trunks of trees, the other 
with canoes brought to us by the natives, who are more wretched- 
looking than those who live higher up the river, more suspicious, 
and more savage. They are amused and alarmed at a mere 
nothing, and even our camels inspire them with such terror 
that they will not go near them. 

The men of Arkan (this being the name of the place) are 
poor wretches all in rags, dressed in pieces of coarse cloth and 
fragments of a wadded coat, having on their feet abarcas, boots 
without any heels, or strips of stuff wound round their legs. 
They are of a very marked type, being small, dark, and very agile, 
showing little muscle, with skinny legs, and the calf high up 
towards the knee. They have broad faces, salient cheek-bones, 
and small round eyes of a dark colour, while one is struck by 
the long nose, coming down to a chin ending in a very scanty 
beard. Their cheeks are hollowed as if by hunger, their mouths 
very large, with the corners puckered down, and with thick over- 
lapping lips. Their necks are long and thin like those of the 
cormorants, which they resemble in the sense that they are 
in search of food from the hour of their birth. Their teeth, 
as a rule, are yellow, decayed, short, and worn sideways 
from gnawing at dried meat and munching grain. They 


are much amused at seeing us sneeze when we take some 
of the 3'ellow snuff which they are constantly thrusting up 
their nostrils. 

Savage and devoid of intelligence as they look, they have 
their code of honour. The Dungan camel-driver abuses them 
because they have pushed one of the camels into the water by 
their awkward movements, so they steer clear of him, heap curses 
on his head, and intimate their intention of going away. They 
will not do anything for him, and we are compelled to intervene 
and explain that he is only hired by us, and that in reality it 
is for us they are working. So they set to work again, but onfv 
on the condition that the Dungan keeps awa} r from them. 

It so happens that this morning, by way of punishing them 
for some careless act, Parpa took a stick and beat some of them, 
whereupon, instead of being angry, they offered excuses and 
promised to behave better. I asked one of their greybeards 
the meaning of this. 

" Why do you say nothing to Parpa and get angry with the 
Dungan ? " 

" Parpa is a Mussulman, a sunni, like ourselves." 

" But the Dungan is a sunni too." 

" We do not believe it, for he wears a pigtail like a Chinese ; 
he speaks their language, and knows nothing of ours, except 
insults. Whereas Parpa is one of our acquaintances, he speaks 
our language and does not insult our mothers or the tombs of our 
fathers. He beat the men who made such a stupid blunder, and 
he was quite right. He is not a Chinese with hair falling down 
his back, and, besides, blows are not like the words which pro- 
ceed from an evil heart." 

As a matter of fact, the stick is commonly used for chastise- 
ment in these Eastern countries, and there is nothing ignominious 
in the injuries which it inflicts. Insults, on the other hand — and 
I mean thereby the curses upon relatives, ancestors, and tombs, 


uttered with the object of dishonouring the person at whom 
they are levelled — are rarely forgiven. 

October 26. — Having got the whole of the caravan across, we 
encamped to-day in a wood at Talkitchin, a name which signifies 
" the small poplar " in the dialect of the country. The scenery 
is much the same, and directly one leaves the banks of the river 
one is in the desert with the tamarisk-tree, the tcldga, and tufts 
of reeds growing in its salt soil. 

As I walk through the wood I observe that if it has been 
able to resist the desert it has not escaped the effects of time, 
for the leaves have been stripped from the trees earlier than 
they would have been if there had been much vigour in them, 
and the branches of the poplars are much twisted and bent. 
The trunks are either split or are devoid of bark, the ground 
is strewed with dead branches, and the roots, laid bare to the 
air, seem to have no hold on the ground. Seen from a distant 
elevation, these trees present the forlorn asj)ect of an abandoned 
vineyard, and the meagre trunks, devoid of a single branch, rear 
their heads like the poles in a hop field which has been allowed 
to go out of cultivation. The effect of all I see around me is 
to depress the imagination : the sand is so shifting that the 
footprints made in it are effaced in a moment ; there is no sign 
of life ; the pale sun goes down in a grey sky which it scarcely 
tinges with gold, while the silence is so complete that one can 
almost hear one's arteries beating. 

The old Kirghis, Imatch, indulges in some very comical 
reflections about the camels, of which he is very fond, as, indeed, 
he is of all animals, taking care that the horses and dogs are not 
left without food. His only failing is that he has a very coarse 
tongue, and a boundless store of rich invective. He points out 
to me that the kouirouk (tail) of the sheep is not so thick as in 
the Hi, this being a proof that the pasturage is poor. There 
is nothing better than the fat of the sheep's tail. 


October 27. — After a march through the sand, we encamped a 
little way beyond, the ruined fortress constructed by Yakoob Beg, 
and of which the four crenellated walls still standing serve as a 
refuge in bad weather. The spot where we encamped is called 
Bougou Bashi, Bougon being the name given by the natives to 
the stags, which are pretty numerous in this country, while 
Bashi means head, the Tarim making a sharp bend, which is very 
like the head of a stag surmounted by his two horns. 

October 28. — We direct our steps southward, delighted at 
the thought of entering the region of Lob. As we advance 
the aspect of the country changes, vegetation becoming rarer, 
while the trees have disappeared ; the shrubs and plants are 
scantier, and the hillocks further apart, and frequently separated 
by the smooth surface of the takirs. There are traces of 
evaporation everywhere. 

We take a south-south-westerly direction, with the wind at 
our backs. Quitting the banks of the Tarim for good, the desert 
becomes more and more in keeping with its name. All of a 
sudden we can see the glistening of water, a large sheet of which 
extends to our left, forming numerous creeks. Overhead thou- 
sands of birds are flying in clouds, while others allow themselves 
to be carried along the surface of the water by the wind, but at a 
considerable distance from the low banks, which are bare, coated 
with salt, and devoid of the thick belt of reeds which is to be 
found on most lakes. Further on is another sheet of water, and 
when we ascend a hillock we can distinguish an endless chain of 
them, with their sandhills, salt-coated shores, and water-fowl. 

One of the guides says this region is the Lob, another that it 
is Kara Bourane ; but it is really called the " Black Tempest," 
bein"- the extreme west of the Lob. 

The stream which runs in a current through this stagnant 
water is the Tchershène Darya, which comes down from the high 
table-lands to the north. It is not so broad as the Tarim, and a 



bridge of very modest size enables us to cross it, and to encamp 
in the island formed by it, the grass being good for the horses 
and camels. 

The village of Lob is not far off, and the inhabitants come to 


pay ns a visit. These starved and feeble-looking people offer to 
sell ns smoked fish, and duck which they have snared, and a few 
presents soon make them friendly. They tell us that Petzoff, the 
Russian traveller, is expected shortly, and that the Chinese have 


spread the report that smallpox is raging in the region of the 
Tchershène, so that the inhabitants of Tcharkalik have made 
up their minds to take flight before the Russians arrive. In this 
country smallpox terrifies the population, causing them to 
disperse in all directions, and even to abandon the sick. 

October 29. — After having slowly steered our way through 
the marshes, we again see the bare plain in the desert. To the 
south we can distinguish a tall peak rising out of the mist, like 
an island in the sky, and the guide, pointing to it with his whip, 
says, " Altyn Tagh, the mountain of gold !" It is the first of the 
mountain walls which bar access to the high table-lands ; as we 
look at it it vanishes like a dream. 

"We trot along a narrow, rough path, hewn, so to speak, out of 
the soil wherein the feet of men and beasts have worked a series of 
holes some distance apart. The path gets smoother, and at last 
we enter a tamarisk wood, while the poplars are still green and 
the air warm as in spring ; thus we enter the oasis of Tcharkalik. 
Here there is abundance of irrigation, and the fields are well cul- 
tivated. There are peach and apricot trees, and even vines, with 
hedgerows enclosing the fields, and the presence of huts and 
cottages reminds one a little of the gardens outside large cities, 
like Marseilles. 

We are very well received by the elders of the village of Tchar- 
kalik, who bring us a profusion of melons, peaches, and grapes, 
and have some cakes of new bread baked for us ; and in our 
delight at having reached the end of our second main stage, we 
sacrifice a whole hecatomb of these good things. 




A Region of Salt — On the Tarim again — Abdallah — Residence of the Chief — His Family — 
Wild Camels — Another Abdallah — Lost in the Darkness— More about Wild Camels — 
Waterfowl — An Exchange — Disappearance of a Lake — Down the Tarim in Canoes — 
Youtchap Khan— Another Native Type — Kumshap Khan — Straddling a River at Its 
Mouth — At Eutin — Ichthyophagists — A Native Legend — Probable Causes of the Drying 
up of the Lake — Native Customs — Festivities — Back to the First Abdallah — Tchaï — A 
Couple of Good Shots — A Moonlight March — At Tcharkalik Once More. 

We had already been four days at Tcharkalik, and were not nearly 
ready to start, having to engage men of the district in place of 
our Russians who were returning home, to get in provisions 
for the winter, to mend clothes, and to make coverings for pro- 
tecting the feet from the cold. All this takes time, and as' 
Bonvalot had promised to see after . this, Father Dedeken and 
myself, who could be of no service at Tcharkalik, availed 
ourselves of the compulsory halt of the caravan to explore the 
Lob Nor, starting on the 3rd of November. 

Our horses had already travelled more than 600 miles since 
we left Djarkent, and as we had still to tax their powers a great 
deal, we left them to rest at Tcharkalik. Riding some animals 
which we hired there, thick-set ponies, with deep chests, short 
and heavy necks, and small heads, and that seemed able to stand 
plenty of work, we found it as much as we could do to hold them 
at the start. Abdullah, who takes, as meant for himself, the 
attention which these stallion ponies bestow on the mare he is 
riding, casts a patronising look at the natives wdio have come 
to see us off. He is in his element goin^ to the Lob Nor, for he 
thinks he will be able to do as he likes with us, and keep us well 
away from the villages, while he remains there eating, smoking, 
and flirting with the young ladies of the place. A smile of 


self-satisfaction plays over his face as lie abandons himself to his 
reveries. In front of him Father Dedeken and Barachdin, both 
keen for the chase, are discounting their coming triumphs, while 
behind them CouznetzofF, bent double, has as much as he can do 
to keep his pony in order, and, when he can find a quiet moment, 
wipes his spectacles, and hopes we shall not kill too many birds 
for him to stuff. 

A little way behind us come half a dozen small donkeys, 
accompanied by two Mussulmans from Tcharkalik, and carrying 
some provisions and our beds, which consist of a piece of felt 
and a coverlet. Abdullah declares that we shall find very good 
houses, and that it is useless to encumber ourselves with a tent. 
We have also two small barrels of water and a little dry wood. 

When we left the encampment at 9 a.m. the weather was 
cold, but there was no wind or cloud. Still the sky was over- 
cast, having that iron-grey tint which I have often noticed on 
the Teraï in Nepaul, and which is caused by a mist intercepting a 
portion of the light. 

M. Bonvalot came a little way with us through the oasis of 
Tcharkalik, as far as the limit of the desert. The arrangement 
was that if we found the shooting in the Lob Nor anything out 
of the common, we were to let him know and he would join us. 
If not, we were to rejoin him in about a week. 

As far as a small hillock where we took tea when coming from 
Lob, the road is the one over which we have already travelled, but 
we then turn to the right — that is, to the north-east. All day 
we go through the desert, with nothing but sand in view, in some 
places level and smooth as a carpet, in others wrinkled and raised 
into ridges which are close together, like so many petrified waves. 
Sometimes, too, we notice small cavities in the soil, which are 
half full of saline crystallisations. These are géodes forming 
under our very eyes, and it is probably to all this salt that are 
due the mirages which are constantly tantalizing us in this 


arid region, where the passage of the caravans has traced a 
rough sort of road which has been hardened bj the drought, 
and which winds along in the distance like a furrow traced by 
the hand of man. One might imagine oneself to be transported 
into the scenery of the moon, and we really begin to forget 
where we are. Our march soon becomes horribly monotonous, 
and we cease singing and even talking, the solitude being quite 
contagious, and the general silence only broken by the footfall 
of the horses when they are crossing dried-up ponds and their 
hoofs break through the crust. We are only aroused from our 
reveries by meeting with a caravan, and when we shake off our 
torpor we have the feeling of returning to the domain of the real 
which is experienced by the sleeper who wakes up with a start. 

From time to time we pass migrants from the Lob Nor who 
are going to spend the winter at Tcharkalik, with their luggage, 
their dwellings, and their furniture loaded on the backs of a few 
donkeys, and of their wives. In the midst of one of these 
convoys I am particularly struck by one family. The woman 
has a piece of felt on her back, with a gun slung across her 
shoulders, and she is driving the donkey along with a stick, 
while the husband follows quietly nursing a child in his arms. 
He does not seem to be the least astonished at meeting us, and 
continues his journey without even looking round ; he would 
not be a whit more surprised if death were to overtake him, for 


he is a Mussulman, and knows that "it is written." 

Despite the sameness of the route, time passes quickly, and 
we have to think about encamping. We calculate that we 
have come about twenty-five miles, and though we are still in the 
midst of the desert, our guides are not in the least at a loss to 
fasten up our horses, after having unloaded them. They make 
small holes in the ground and put the halters into them, then 
filling these holes up with sand and treading them down. This 
mode of fastening horses offers much more resistance than one 


might be inclined to think. Having spread out our pieces of felt, 
we light the dry wood we have brought with us, and our frugal 
meal of caverdalc* washed down with tea, is soon over. It is 
not long before we roll ourselves up in our rugs, and, with the 
desert for a mattress, the sky for a ceiling, and the moon for a 
night-light, we desire nothing better, especially as we are very 

November 4. — We are awoke at break of day by a deep 
murmur over our heads. It is a rhythmical sound, similar to 
that of the paddles of a steamer as they strike the water, 
and it is produced by flocks of birds which are flying southward. 
The season is advancing, and it is time for them to get away from 
the cold. 

And very cold it is, the thermometer marking only five degrees 
above zero. Being anxious to start so as to re-establish our 
circulation, we do not lose much time in folding up our beds, 
preparing our tea, and loading our donkeys. Some wild geese 
that had got left behind are standing in long rows upon the sand, 
and seen from the distance they look gigantic, and give the idea 
of troops drawn up in battle array. We, no doubt, present a still 
more formidable appearance to them, for as soon as they catch 
sight of us, they utter the most discordant cries and fly away, 
forming immense triangles in the air with the apex in front. 

The sun bursts out at last, and, though rather behind time, he 
makes up for this b}>" revealing a quite unlooked-for spectacle. 
The ground is covered with the seeds of reed grass brought hither 
by the wind, and these seeds, white and silky, sparkle like an 
infinity of small stars in the horizontal rays. It seems as if the 
desert was ashamed of its horrible nudity, and that, in order to 
conceal it from our sight, it had borrowed from the star of day its 
rarest jewels and its most dazzling stones. Beside the brilliant 
diamonds, large round sapphires of a deep and splendid blue are 

* Caverdalc is meat cut up into very small pieces aud fried in the pan. 


represented by small circular pools, which owe their sombre tints 
to the saltness of the water. These pools of water indicate the 
vicinity of a river, and it is not long before we regain the course 
of the Tarim, which is fifty feet broad, with a limpid but shallow 
current, flowing slowly between two sandy banks, which are 
covered in places with reeds. 

Its course will guide us in future along our route, for we 
have to follow it prett}^ closely, putting to flight now and again 
herds of gazelles which have come to drink of its waters. But 
they are very wild, and w T e do not succeed in bringing any down. 

The sun is rapidly sinking beneath the horizon, yet we 
see no trace of dwellings. The thirty versts which, as the guide 
told us this morning, separated us from the village of Abdallah, 
seem to us very long ones ; we have covered, indeed, quite double 
the distance, and it is night when we reach four or five wretched 
reed hovels. Can this be the village of Abdallah ? Where are 
the houses built of stone, or, at all events, of earth, which he told 
us about. Where, too, are the trees, the wood of which was to 
give us warmth ? and why should he have dissuaded us from 
bringing our tents ? 

These are questions which we should have liked to put to 
Abdullah, but it is cold and late, and all that we can do is to 
content ourselves with what we have got, and settle ourselves in 
as comfortably as possible, taking care to be on our guard in future 
against the information supplied by ouj; interpreter. While our 
people are unloading the horses and donkeys, the natives emerge 
from their miserable hovels, and with many salaams beg us to 
accept their hospitality. 

We enter one of these huts, the earthen floor of which is 
covered in places with old bits of felt, while in the centre a cavity 
surrounded by flat stones serves as a fireplace. In the corner are 
sacks of corn and an old cartridge box, the latter being a souvenir 
of Prjevalsky's visit. This is all the furniture, and on the walls, 


constructed of reeds, are hung long guns with powder flasks, so 
that the inmates are given to shooting. The ceiling is made out 
of the branches of trees brought from Tcharkalik, the interstices 
being filled up with osiers, and a space is left over the hearth to 
let the smoke escape. Bits of cloth are stretched from one beam 
to another to prevent the droppings from the swallows' nests from 
falling on to the ground. These birds are held iti great respect. 

This is the residence of a chief, and having inspected the 
house, I proceed to examine the figures of our hosts, lighted up 
by the fire made of the reeds and dry bushwood. In the fore- 
ground, close to the hearth, crouches a little old man, very bent 
and wrinkled. He resembles some of the Tarantshis whom we 
saw at Kourla. "With a more or less automatic motion of his 
lower jaw, he raises his white beard to the level of his hooked 
nose, this movement being all the easier because he has no teeth. 
This is Abdou Kérémata, who might be any age between 95 and 
105, and as he is the chief of the family, the baba* he is, as such, 
held in great respect. 

Around him are his sons, the 3'oungest of whom is at least 
forty. They are all devoted to the chase — tall men, clad in 
sheepskins tied round the waist with a belt, with fur caps on 
their heads, and wearing sandals made of the skins of donke} T s or 
wild camels. Their features show that they are not of pure 
blood, the forehead being narrow and the eyes more or less 
elongated, but not raised at the corners, as is the case with the 
yellow race. As a rule, they scarcely open their eyelids ; the nose 
is large, and, usually, rather hooked, the lips thick and inclined 
to turn up, and the hair coarse and scant}^. Such are their 
general characteristics, to which I may acid one peculiarity which I 
noticed everywhere in the Lob Nor. The people get wrinkled 
from their early youth, and their faces show signs of this all over 
— on the forehead, round the eyes, under the cheeks, and at the 

* Grandfather. 


corners of the mouth, producing an air of premature age and of 
grimacing which makes men who are, taking them altogether, 
rather handsome, appear very ugly. The family of Abdou 
Kérémata invite us to come round the fire ; they pour out tea for 
us, and bring us the best bits of mutton— that is, the breast and 


the loin. Our hosts keep complete silence, only a word here and 
there being exchanged in an undertone while we are eating. In 
the next room women are rocking cradles to a tune which sug- 
gests the dull sound of a pestle being worked in a mortar, while 
at a respectful distance from the hearth children nearly naked 
look from us to their fathers, and keep quite silent out of 

" Allah Akbar ! " exclaims Abdullah, passing his hands 
through his beard, while the guests express their satisfaction by 
some incongruous sounds. The meal being finished, it is time to 


talk, and there is a piece of good news for ns, for some animals 
have just been eaten by a tiger, so perhaps we may have a chance 
of tracking him. 

With regard to the wild camels, our hosts have killed four in 
the last two years, but they have cut up their skins. In telling 
us this, they guess that Ave should want them whole, with the 
head and the feet. The only Europeans who have come here 
before wanted them like this, so they suppose that "the people of 
the West attach great importance to these skins ; j>erhaps they 
extract valuable remedies from them." 

Whatever may be their object, travellers never come to the 
Lob Nor without inquiring about the wild camels. One of the 
men present provided Prjevalsky with some. The tariff has 
always been sixty roubles and an article of European manufacture 
for a complete skin. But we spoil the market, at the risk of 
incurring the displeasure of those who come after us. We are 
pressed for time, the wild camels are only to be found some way 
to the east, and a fortnight is soon gone ; so we promise seventy 
roubles for each skin, and promise the men a gratuity even if 
they do not kill any. Abdullah goes bail for us, and in doing so 
incurs little risk, as he does not intend to return to the Lob Nor 
sooner than he can help. 

November 5. — We are in the saddle before sunrise, following 
for another four miles the Tarim, which runs between -high 
banks, and halting again at a fresh village with five or six reed 
huts similar to the one we have just left. This also is called 
Abdallah, and all that it has more than the first is a pole, to 
which we fasten our horses, on the " public square." Hospi- 
tality is offered us by a native about forty years old, with a 
straight, big nose, thick but not protruding lips, and a very 
wrinkled skin. He has a very genial face, and breathes an air of 
jollity which is quite communicative. This is Kunshi Khan Beg, 
whose portrait has already been drawn by Prjevalsky, who was 


his guest for more than a month. Like Abdou Kérémata, he is 
the head of a family of hunters, and he promises to do what he 
can to procure us the skin of a wild camel ; and when he hears 
our proposals, he induces five of his men to get ready for a start 
into the desert. Other natives are longing to get on to the track 
of the tiger referred to above. 

While Abdullah was interpreting our promises, garnished with 
some of his own inventions, Father Dedeken went up to two 
Mongolian yourtes (tents), close to which five camels were 
picketed. These tents were inhabited by five very dirty lamas, 
who were preceding the Khan of the Kalmucks on his return from 
Lhassa. As we know that they have just traversed the high- 
lands of Thibet, upon which we are about to enter, they may 
perhaps be able to give us some useful information. Father 
Dedeken accordingly calls out to them in Chinese, " Amour sen ! 
Amour sen bene ! * Come and take tea with us." They understand 
perfectly what is said to them, and accept the invitation with 
pleasure. The pleasure, however, is scarcely reciprocal, for they 
smell atrociously. Nor do they seem to understand this, as, the 
more I sheer off from them, the closer they come up to me. We 
feel that it will not do to be too particular, but we are poorly 
rewarded for our hardihood, for, while they drink our tea very 
readily, they will not tell us anything worth knowing, saying all 
they can to deter us from going on. > 

The rest of the day is employed in shooting in the vicinity. 
The water-fowl are prett}?- numerous, and they keep to small pools, 
which, as a rule, are circular, and are surrounded by a belt of reeds 
fifteen or twenty feet high, forming a regular forest ; the ground 
is marshy, and covered in some places with rushes, which make 
the walking very bad. W*hen one has got through these on to the 
bank, it is easy to have a double shot, but the birds all get up, 
and it is necessary to walk round the pond and go to the other 

# Mongolian for " Good health." 


side, or else pass on to the next. This is very fatiguing work, 
and so we soon return, after having seen a great deal of game, 
but no great variety of species. This is not the time of year 
when there is a great passage of birds, and, as we have not enough 
cartridges to amuse ourselves by making a big bag, we must 
only kill what we require for our collections and for food. 

On returning to Abdallah, I utilised the few remaining hours 
of daylight to get on my pony and ride back over yesterday's 
route, in the hope of seeing some more gazelles. I did not see a 
single one, but I was so absorbed in looking about for them that 
I let night overtake me. In these regions it comes all of a sudden, 
without any twilight. With a carelessness without excuse in 
such a case, I had forgotten my compass. Only one resource was 
left to me, and that answered. I let the reins drop on my horse's 
neck, and he, after sniffing for a moment, set off without hesita- 
tion at a slow trot, and took me straight to the village, which I 
could not distinguish until I was within a hundred yards of it. 

This nocturnal ride gave me an appetite, and I did justice to 
the meal which Kunshi Khan and his sons shared with us, for 
our host had offered us a sheep, a Tcharkalik melon, and ten 
small sandwiches similar to those made in Russia, and called 
pirojki. The secret of making them was taught his wife by a 
Russian Cossack, and, whatever may have been the motive which 
actuated him, we bless this unknown philanthropist and quaff a 
cup of tea to his health. During our dinner, a woman prepares 
in the same room a dish of Chinese macaroni. She is not good- 
looking, being of the same type as the men, but her head-dress 
gives her a more civilised air, while after the fashion of the Russian 
peasants, she covers her coarse black hair with a fichu, tied 
under the chin. One might imagine she was conscious of her 
ugliness, for she talked very little, and did not take her food at 
the same time as the men, who have not the slightest notion of 
gallantry. The children are prettier than their mother, not being 





yet wrinkled, and there are some fine types among them ; they 
are all nearly naked, and seem to be in excellent health. After 
they have had a good look at us, they withdraw into an adjoining 
room, followed bv the women, who leave us alone with their 
husbands. The latter, having made a hearty meal, are in a good 
humour and ready to reply to the questions we put to them con- 
cerning their mode of life, their habits, and their pursuit of game. 
Wild camel, we are told, begin to be found six days to the north 
of Abdallah. In the summer they go up into the mountains, 
but they always return to the same spots, there being certain 
cantonments to which they are accustomed. They go about in 
troops, one male to fifteen or sixteen females, but it is only after 
terrific combats that the former becomes the undisputed lord of 
his harem. The females have two young in three years, and the 
male protects them until they are old enough to do without their 
mother's milk. It is very fatiguing and difficult to get near 
them, the only way being for the hunter to hide near the pond on 
the brink of which he has found their traces. He must be a very 
good shot, for having only a single-barrelled gun, he cannot get 
a second shot, and if the camel is only wounded, it will make off 
with its companions and he will never get near it again. The 
best season for this sport is the winter, for the water is nearly 
everywhere frozen over, so that the places where the camels 
come to drink are very few, and you are pretty sure of finding them. 
As to whether these camels have always been wild or are 
descended from domesticated ones, our hosts assured us that they 
had always been wild. " Our forefathers and tradition," they 
said, " represent them as being so. Moreover, a domesticated camel 
cannot do without man, but comes after him. Every domestic 
animal has a wild antecedent, belonging to some secluded spot. 
The camel must have one like other animals.'" 

* The reader is probably aware that the wild camel is spoken of as far back as the 
fifteenth century in the deserts of Central Asia, and that the fact of its existence has 


" When the chase has been successful it is very profitable, as 
the camel's skin is in great demand for boots, while the hair of 
the younger animals is fine and silky, and that of the older 
camels is close, and makes very good cloth. But only rich people 
like Kunshi Khan can organise these expeditions, as it is neces- 
sary to send several men on in advance, forward provisions, 
furnish animals for transporting them, which sometimes die ; and 
altogether considerable risk has to be incurred." 

It is much easier and less dangerous to capture water-fowl. 
Snares are set among the reeds, and during the season a single 
native, in the course of a single night, will take as many as 
fifteen ducks.* Swans are more profitable than ducks, coverlets 
and even clothing being made with their down. They are taken 
with snares, while in the winter they are decoyed by means of 

The chase and fishing form the staple industry of the inhabi- 
tants of Abdallah. They use nets similar to seines, and when 
the fish have been caught they are split in two, cleaned out, and 
then dried for use in winter. There are three varieties of fish, 
the most abundant of which has a thin and yellow skin like 
that of the tench, with a round mouth set off by appendages 

been confirmed in the last fifty years, but bas only been definitely proved since 
Prjevalsky brought back some skins of the animal, which is rather smaller than the 
domesticated kind, with thinner limbs and no callosities at the knees. These charac- 
teristics are not distinctive. The question as to whether the wild camel is the parent 
stock of the domesticated one, or whether, on the contrary, he descends from some tame 
camel, as has happened in Spain and more recently in Guiana, is not yet settled, nor 
is it likely to be yet a while. 

* The swallows arrive at Abdallah in April, and leave again in September. A 
species of red duck, called here Turfan (in Chinese, Clioumi chieeu, red beak), arrives in 
large numbers in February, and leaves in July. The geese arrive from the 20th to 28th 
February, remaining till the middle of March, and then going to Siberia. They return 
from September to October, remaining a month and then goiug southward. The swans 
arrive from the south at the end of July, remain throughout September, and then 
return south. They do not nest at the Lob Nor, because of the mosquitoes, accordiug 
to the Datives. The other ducks arrive towards the end of January, some remaining 
only ten days, but those which stay longer build their nests, like the puffins, the gulls, 
the hei-ons, and other sedentary birds in the Lob Nor. 


on each, side ; they are rarely more than twenty-two inches 

The natives of Abdallah also eke out their livelihood by the 
rearing of stock, which they possess in large numbers. They do 
not till" the ground, but they own some fields at Tcharkalik, 
which workmen cultivate for them, and they pay them in kind 
with a part of the crop and a few sheep. Altogether, the people 
of Abdallah are regarded as rich, and they are under the immediate 
protection of the Chinese — that is to say, the authorities of 
Turfau, to which they are attached, levy on them a tax which is 
equivalent to one rouble per horse, forty copecks per cow or ox, 
two roubles per hundred sheep, and nine skins of seals for the 
head-dress of the mandarins. In return for this, the Celestial 
Empire declares them to be its well-beloved children. But 
although they are Chinese subjects, they have not the character- 
istics of their masters, being less proud and more simple than 
the sons of Heaven. Before quitting us for the night, they 
show us in a very amusing way how preferable common sense 
is to conceited knowledge. In this instance common sense is 
represented by Kunshi Khan, and instruction by Abdullah, 
who is a savant by comparison, as he can speak four languages, 
and has a great opinion of himself. The former shows a stereo- 
scope and a musical-box which Prjevalsky gave him. Abdullah 
thinks that if he were to send these two articles back by the 
Russians to his family at Djarkent, he would dazzle his com- 
patriots, and appear a great man in their eyes, while Kunshi 
Khan says to himself that if he had Abdullah's wadded cover- 
let he should be very warm in the winter. The exchange is 
accordingly made, each thinking that he has got the best of the 
bargain. I know which of the two really has, and I shall 
ask our " intelligent " interpreter, later on, if he thinks that 
Kunshi Khan is nice and warm. 

November 6. — We are anxious to get away to the Lob Nor, 


and see the immense lake, the beginning of which we noticed 
near the village of Lob, and the surface of which, according to 
Abdullah, is dark with myriads of water-fowl. 

" But," say the natives, " you are at the Lob Nor." 
" What do you mean ? Where, then, is the great lake ? " 
" There is no great lake." 
" Then what becomes of the Tarim ? " 
" It gradually dwindles away and finally disappears." 
" But Prjevalsky saw a lake which he compared to a small 

" No doubt, but since the Russian general came here, thirteen 
years ago, the water has run off, and the largest liquid surface 
is that which you saw near Lob. Besides, there are no longer 
anything but small pools." 

" Thank you. We are quite ready to believe you, but we 
should like to see for ourselves what the state of things is, and 
we propose to go down the Tarim a little way." 

In order to carry out this project, all we have to do is to 
embark, with our beds and a few provisions, on two large canoes 
hewn out of the trunk of a tree. These canoes are about twenty 
feet by three, and they hold four men, including two natives, 
one in the bow and the other in the stern, who use their paddles 
much after the fashion of the Venetian gondoliers. These boats 
are light, and not very steady, so the wary Abdullah suggests that 
we should follow the example of Prjevalsky, and tie them together, 
but his advice is not followed, time being short. The weather 
is fine, we have a light westerly breeze in the poop, and we 
make rapid headway down stream, upon both banks of which are 
low hillocks of sand, with a few stunted tamarisk trees growing 
on them. The Tarim is from twenty-two to twenty-five feet broad, 
dividing at places into two branches, and forming an eyot. At 
one of these eyots we halt for a little, and are overtaken by boats 
that have come from Loi) loaded with provisions for the winter. 


A few miles farther on we come to Youtchap Khan, as four or 
five reed huts erected under a sandy hillock are called, the village 
having a small canal which was cut about fifteen years ago to let 
off the overflow of water. 

At ' Youtchap Khan we make a fresh halt, to oblige 
Abdullah, who is not very fond of this sort of navigation, and 
the whole population comes out to have a look at us. The men 
are like those at Abdallah, but the women are even uglier, 
having snub noses, prominent cheek-bones, eyes almost on a level 
with the face, and large mouths some distance from the ex- 
tremity of the nose, being altogether very much of the Mongolian 
type. Men and women receive us in very friendly fashion, and 
allow us to inspect their dwellings, and to photograph their 
implements, which are simple and few in number. The guns 
are the same as those we have seen before, with a single barrel, 
which is long, and has an iron prong attached to it. 
Spending most of their time in the chase, they breed a few sheep, 
like the people at Abdallah, and make use of the avooI, which 
they comb out by stretching it upon a rope fastened to a wooden 
handle, and making the rope vibrate by means of a sort of mallet. 
When they have got the wool to the required degree of fineness, 
they roll it on to a spinning-wheel, formed by two parallel 
indentated wheels, the points of which are fastened together with 
pieces of string. Besides wool, they use for their clothing the 
bark of a variety of wild hemp {tcltiga), which they root up with 
a hoe made of a triangular piece of iron, with a cane as the stick. 
They cut their wood with a primitive sort of hatchet, which 
consists of a fragment of iron fixed on to the extremity of a piece 
of bent wood. The corn is ground between two flat stones, each 
fastened in the middle to a piece of wood. They use pumpkins 
instead of gourds, while the skins of antelopes, with the hair 
taken off, dried, and scraped, are cut into long strips for making 
fishing-nets. Adding to these few articles of prime necessity a 


horse's tail for driving away the flies, and a reed mat which 
answers the purpose of a napkin, an exact idea may he formed 
of what is to he found in their dwellings. 

Eeturning to our hoats, we continue the descent of the Tarim, 
the sand hanks of which continue as far as Kumshap Khan' (" Dug 
out from the Sand "), which is another collection of reed-hovels. 
The inhabitants seem even more woebegone than the people 
already described, with nothing but a few pieces of ragged felt to 
barely cover them, while their enormous sheep-skin caps, the wool 
of which is mixed up with their unkempt hair, make their 
physiognomy seem all the more savage. Yet, beneath this re- 
pulsive exterior, we find them very amiable and friendly. They 
are nine families in all, with about sixty members, and we cannot 
refuse their invitation to stay a few minutes and take a cup of 
tea. The sides of the house we enter are covered with white 
patches produced by the damp, and as the interior is dirty, we 
are not sorrv to be off. 

The Tarim divides into two arms beyond Kumshap Khan, 
the greater part of the waters flowing to the left and forming 
a large marsh, with islets of sand rising above the surface here 
and there. At the rear of the village is a lake about 330 feet 
long, but not more than a foot or two deep, while beyond that 
are peat-bogs, salt-ponds, and strips of ground covered by a few 
stunted gorse bushes and reed-beds. At Kumshap Khan the 
sand banks come to an end, and the right arm of the Tarim, 
which continues to flow eastward, is only from seven to sixteen 
feet broad, its banks being scarcely visible, while the immense 
reeds which grow along them have their roots in the water. The 
stream, already so much shrunken, is still further diminished 
by the number of small furrows cut on the right bank by the 
natives to guard against inundations. The river winds very 
much, and we have difficulty in getting round some of the 
bends, owing to the length of our canoes, but our boatmen have 

H.' J '\ \V 

i •: :ia 



• LT 


made up their minds to the inevitable, and they accompany the 
motion of their oars with a rhythmical song, ending with a sort 
of sigli which we all repeat in chorus. Soon we are navigating 
a stream about five feet wide ; and, at the risk of wetting my feet, 
I cannot resist the temptation of standing astride one of the 
largest rivers of Central Asia at its mouth, and seeing it flow 
between my legs. In front, behind, on each side and above us, 
are nothing but bulrushes, with patches of sky on which stars are 
beginning to appear, for night is drawing on, and our men 
advance but slowly, while our stomachs remind us that it is 
high time to find a place of rest. 

All of a sudden, as if by enchantment, at the bend of the 
stream we come upon a little creek to the left, a clear space amid 
the rushes, a mead coming down to the bank, and on the bank a 
man ! I do not know whether he or our party are the more 

On jumping ashore, my first impulse is to give him a cordial 
shake of the hand, for a man represents to my mind inhabi- 
tants, a village, fire, and dinner. But I cannot help being angry 
with our boatmen for having deceived us, by saying that there 
was no village beyond Kumshap Khan. 

I tell Abdullah to ask where w^e are. 


" Did the boatmen know of this village ? " 

"Yes, they belong to it." 

" Why did they not tell us of it ? " 

" The}^ were afraid that we should steal their wives." 

" Eeassure them, and say that we only ask them to give us 
shelter, and that we do not mean them any harm." 

Our men do as they are bid, and take us to the hamlet, the 
name of which means " a place that has been burnt," for the 
houses are built upon a small clearing made by a fire in the 
midst of the reeds. There is a population of about fifty. Our 


boatmen had been away for several days, so their aged fathers 
greet them by kissing them on both cheeks ; while they, in their 
turn, embrace their sons. We ingratiate ourselves with all the 
inhabitants by buying one of the two village sheep which had 
been fattened for the marriage of the chief's son, and as soon as 
the animal has been killed and cut up, it is cooked, we sharing 
the meal with our hosts. This is a great treat for them, as they 
rarely taste meat more than once a year; and, in addition to 
being too poor to afford it, they say that it would be bad for 
them to eat it frequently. Perhaps this is another case of 
" grapes being sour," but, in any case, it is certain that, like 
certain peoples of Arabia, they are ichthyophagists, though they 
eat duck as well as fish. In their view, as in that of the médise val 
monks, the flesh of ducks is not meat ; though the motive for 
holding this view may not be the same in the two cases. They 
also eat the young sprouts of the reeds, and the roots of the wild 
hemp, which they fry. I am delighted at their friendly feeling, 
and take advantage of their loquacity and of Abdullah's good 
humour to pursue the investigation which I began at Abdallah. 
We shall probably not go any farther on the Lob Nor, or ever 
return there, so it would be a pity to lose the opportunity of get- 
ting information with regard to regions of which so little is known. 

Here, as in the other villages, we are seated in a circle round 
the hearth, the fire being made of bundles of dried reeds. The 
ends are lighted first, and the flame gradually consumes the 
stalks, a little girl pushing the bundle farther in as it burns. 
The flame is very vivid, and as we get a better light than we 
should from a lamp, and are well warmed into the bargain, we 
have nothing to complain of. 

The bulk of our conversation is with an old woman, whose 
skin is so wrinkled that it is scarcely possible to distinguish her 
toothless mouth between her nose and her chin. According to 
the custom of the country, her head is covered with a fichu; her 


hands are mere skin and bones, and on one of her fingers is a ring 
with a small blue stone — a coloured pebble, which has probably 
been palmed off upon her by a Chinaman. From the frontiers of 
Siberia to Tonquin, and even beyond, it is safe to say : " Wher- 
ever t*here is a robbery, a Chinaman is in it." The old lady 
appears to be held in high esteem in her village, this being due 
to her age and to her musical talents ; for whenever the conversa- 
tion flags she takes up a two-stringed guitar and sings long 
legends to a monotonous, but soft and harmonious tune, relating 
the history of her ancestors, their origin, their struggles, their 
flight, and their return. She sings in a nasal, slow tone, in 
a Turkish dialect which Abdullah has difficulty in following. 
But one of our boatmen, who knows the Tcharkalik language, 
assists him, and, with the help of Father Dedeken and his 
Chinese, I succeed in noting down a good part of the legend, as 
follows : — , 

" Once upon a time, four kings ruled the country, which was 
very prosperous with its Mussulman inhabitants. These kings 
were : Attagout Agha (Agha is a title), residing at Kargalik* ; 
Nouniaz Agha, Mardjan Agha, both of whom resided at Grasharf , 
and Shèr Agha, at Mienshari, near Abdallah j. Then came the 
Mongols, who entered upon a struggle with them. They 
massacred a portion of the male inhabitants, and as the others did 
not choose to remain as slaves, they fled with some of the women, 
and succeeded in escaping eastward, three days' march from Eutin.§ 

" There was still water there then, though now there is only 
saltpetre, but as the fugitives had no house, they dug down into 
the ground to make fire, whence the name of the place, Kara- 
koutchoun (black chimneys). There they began to feed only on 
fish and ducks. 

* Now Tcharkalik. 

t Three days' inarch from Tcharkalik, on the route to Khotan. 

X These places were towns, the ruins of which are still visible in the desert. 

§ Some went as far as the Tsaïdam, where Prjevalsky discovered their tombs. 



" They remained more than a century, but in the meanwhile 
the Mongols had gone away, after having destroyed everything, 
and the exiles, driven from their new colony by the drought, 
gradually returned to the west. 

" Some went along the banks of the Tarim, between Ivourla 
and Lob. Others proceeded as far as the former site of Kar- 
galik, the name of which they had forgotten. Seeing ruins, they 
re-excavated them in search of treasure, but the Mongols had 
carried off everything, and the exiles found nothing but a spin- 
ning-wheel. So they gave the name of Tcharkal, which means 
spinning-wheel, to the town which they built. 

" The chase and the rearing of stock sufficed for their needs 
until the arrival of an aged chief from Khotan, Ismail Ata*, who 
offered to teach them tillage. His offer being accepted, he 
brought several companions with him. And now differences arose 
between the former owners of the soil and the Khotanese ; and the 
latter have many sons, who take in marriage the daughters of the 
former. But our race has always remained intact, and has not 
been subjected to any mixture of blood. "f 

She then abandons the domain of history for that of romance, 
and her improvisations, which seem to captivate the attention of 
her hearers, have less interest for us. I prefer learning all I can 
about the Lob Nor, and question those next to me. 

I am told that it was also by exiles on their return from 
Karakoutchoun that the little villages along the banks of the 
Tarim in the Lob Nor were founded. Ata (the aged father) was 
born at Karakoutchoun sixty-eight years ago, and thirty-five years 
ago founded the hamlet of Eutin. Beyond Eutin, going in the 
direction of Karakoutchoun, there are two villages : Karakoyuk 
and Deutchmé, the latter being already uninhabited, for the water 

* We passed a night under his roof. 

f She forgets that a good many of the people who came from Karakoutchoun took 
back their wives, although they had borne children or were heavy with child to the 
Mongols, their masters. 


lias run off, the reeds have disappeared, and their places are 
taken by sand and salt. Karakoyuk will soon be abandoned, as 
its two last inhabitants are collecting their wretched belongings 
before leaving, and the people of Eutin are on the point of 
migrating westward. 

The fishermen are taking refuge in the oasis of Tcharkalik, 
and are becoming tillers of the soil. The inhabitants of the 
Lob Nor, like the waters of the Tarim, are gradually withdrawing ; 
the hovels are falling in, the hamlets are disappearing, and their 
very sites are invaded by giant reeds, which, in turn, no -longer 
haying the water needed to nourish them, are drying up and 
withering away. Then will begin the slow but certain work of 
the sand, which will come and cover the ruins of ancient cities, 
the remnants of villages, the houses whether of mud or of wood, 
the withered rushes, and the dead reeds, spreading over all this 
district a vast pall which it will be impossible to raise, for the 
sand will have buried what is now the Lob Nor in everlasting 

Already it has partly done its work, for the Lob Nor as we 
see it is not as it was in Prjevalsky's-? time, and the Russian 
general himself could not find the lake* which is marked upon 
the old Chinese maps, and the existence of which is confirmed by 
the old woman we were talking with. According to the tradition 
handed down from generation to generation, there was at one 
time a vast inland sea here, without any sedges or reeds. The 
old men of the tribe have themselves seen large lakes, though 
nothing to compare with the sea which they have heard spoken of. 
One of them says that the water recedes every day, and that it 
must be absorbed by the saltpetre. To this reason, which may 
be to some extent valid, I will add another — for the last ten years 

* It is this great lake which, according 1 to the tradition, has given the Lob Nor 
its name — Lob being a local word signifying wild animals. It was already given to 
the district when the Kalmuck caravans traversed it, and they added the Mongolian 
word Nor (great lake). 


Chinese Turkestan, which was formerly the theatre of constant 
civil wars, seems to have been pacified, at all events for a time, and 
the inhabitants are taking advantage of this truce to devote them- 
selves to the cultivation of the fields, which they had been com- 
pelled for some time to abandon. In order to irrigate their*' fields 
they have diverted part of the waters of the Tarim, which are thus 
lost in irrigations or artificial inundations ; while crops like cotton 
or rice, which require a great deal of moisture, are becoming more 
extensive each year, and consequently the body of water brought 
into the Lob Nor district is very considerably less. 

In reply to our questions as to whether they enjoy good 
health, and to what complaints they are subject, they reply that 
their mode of life is a healthy one, and that epidemics are rare. 
They do not know what it is to have smallpox, and are never 
subject to the ulcers which are so frequent in the East. When 
they reach a certain age, they generally live to be old ; but among 
young children the mortality is at the rate of one in five. They 
tell us that the children have no malady, but "they will not keep 
alive," and this is the best explanation we can get. The com- 
plaints from which adults suffer come chiefly from the damp — 
either a chill, or rheumatism in the legs, which sometimes partially 
paralyses old people ; or else a disease of the bones. This is often 
the consequence of rheumatism, and the old dame tells us that 
when this disease of the bones attacks a woman who is with child, 
she is sure to die. 

When a marriage takes place, the father of the bridegroom 
gives the father of the bride ten bundles of wild hemp, ten packets 
of dried fish, ten cups of fish-oil, a stew-pan, twenty or thirty 
loaves of bread, from fifty to a hundred ducks, a flint and steel, 
and a boat. This is the ordinary tariff, the rich giving a few 
additional fish or ducks. The eatables are, moreover, consumed 
at the wedding feast. The reader might gather from this list of 
presents that the principal occupation is shooting and fishing. 



They can neither read nor write, and the traditions of the 
country are handed down by word of mouth from one generation 
to another. Some of these traditions comprise lofty ideas ; for 
these people, though very poverty-stricken, are not savages. They 
are religious, and declare themselves proud of being Mahometans 
■ — this constituting one of the reasons for their contempt of the 


Chinese and Mongols, whom they describe as people having " no 
book." Their religious practices consist in listening to a few 
verses of the Koran recited by one of the elders of the tribe ; 
their ceremonies are simple, being limited to burials. When a 
man dies, his hands and feet are tied, and if his family has any 
cloth, a new garment is made for him ; but if not, he is dressed 
in an old one. An elder recites a few Mussulman j>rayers, and 
the corpse is placed on a stretcher made of reeds and osiers ; it is 
then covered with rushes, and placed in the midst of the reeds, 
and the relatives cut more reeds and heap them on the dead body ; 
a pole bearing a bit of paper at the end is fixed in the ground, 
and so the ceremony ends. 


AU along the lower course of the Tarim the mode of pro- 
cedure is the same, with this slight difference, that in certain 
places a small hillock of sand for the pile of reeds is substituted. 

We have been conversing for a couple of hours, and before 
going to rest the aged Ata asks us in turn a question — hé can- 
not believe that we are not Russians, and he wants to know why 
we do not come to deliver them from the Chinese. We promise 
him we will do what we can, and, in wishing each other good- 
night we cordially agree in expressing our detestation of all the 
Chinese. The parents embrace their children, the family affec- 
tions evidently being strong among these good people. It is 
not a long business for them to go to bed, as they stretch them- 
selves out on the ground, the women remaining in the same 
room as the men, separated only by a sort of awning made of 
rough canvas, and stretched on to reeds from the ceiling. 

November 7 . — It is very cold, and when we get up there are 
eight degrees of frost, with a strong north-east wind. Before 
leaving we endeavour to get a little sport in the reeds, but they 
are too thick, and we cannot go far. Moreover, Ave are told that 
the wild boars, which used to be very abundant here, have been 
driven away by a tiger. We should gain nothing, therefore, by 
going farther eastward, and if we have any spare time, we prefer to 
ascend the Tarim, this side of Abdallah, towards Lob. Our return 
journey is accomplished without mishap, though we are overtaken 
by a tempest which at once freezes and blinds us, and are 
compelled to wrap ourselves up in our touloupes, and to pull our 
fur caps down over our ears and eyes. Having thus voluntarily 
rendered ourselves deaf and blind, we sit quite still at the risk of 
getting our feet frozen, so as not to disturb the equilibrium of our 
boats. We are not sorry to see Couznetzoff again and the fire 
before which he is cooking some birds. 

November 8. — One of my first visits is to the cemetery of 
Abdallah, which is situated on three sandhills the other side of 


the Tarim, its site being indicated by poles on which are placed 
the heads of horses or the tails of yaks. Upon one of the hillocks, 
perhaps that reserved for the burial of the chiefs, is a small reed 
hut divided into two compartments, in each of which is a sort of 
woode"h rack filled with the horns of deer and antelopes, while in 
front of the hut are more stags' antlers, and antelope heads dried 
with the skin on them. I bring away a few of these horns, hiding 
them under my coat, and in the afternoon go off for a ride with 
Barachdin and a guide who is to show us the way to a large lake 
to the south-east. As we leave the village we meet a Mongol 
caravan consisting of about fifty camels and twenty horses, most 
of them fully loaded, coming from Karashar. The Kalmucks who 
are riding them are on the way to meet their Sovereign, who, as 
we learn, has lost most of his beasts of burden on his way from 
Lhassa. It is useless for us to stop and talk with them, for 
they would give us no information of any value, so we continue 
our march. After riding about six miles, we reach two small 
depressions in the ground which are barely moist, and beyond 
that there is no vegetation, the stony desert extending to the first 
spurs of the Altyn Tagh. There is not the slightest trace of 
the great lake we have been told of, but our guide says it was 
there three months ago. He adds that half a day farther on, 
extending his hand towards the south, there are ruins, supposed 
to be the remains of a large town, nearly buried in the sand, only 
the tops of the houses being visible. 

On our return, we find the village of Abdallah in a state 
of uproar, the whole population rushing about, shouting and 
gesticulating ; the men saddling their horses in haste, the women 
and children crying, and two old women, bent double, groaning 
in quavering tones and exclaiming, " Allah ! Allah ! " The 
horses are soon ready, and the men, with Kumshikan Bey 
at their head, all make off in the same direction. We watch 
them till they disappear in a cloud of dust, and when we ask the 


meaning of this, the women, who have calmed clown a little since 
the departure of their husbands, soothed, perhaps, by the consoling 
tones of the gallant Abdullah, proceed to tell us, still sobbing at 
intervals, what has happened. They ask us if we do not see some- 
thing in the direction in which the horsemen have gone, and when 
we tell them "No, nothing but dust," they say that the men 
who went off on a shooting expedition a month ago have been 
seen, but that whereas three started, only two have returned. 
Two of the three were sons of Kumshikan Bey. In the mean- 
while, the little band of sportsmen draws closer, and then it is 
seen that all three are there, so that the lamentations are turned 
into rejoicings quite as noisy. The whole village went out to 
meet the three men, who were on foot, with emaciated faces and 
clothes much torn, walking very slowly and leading three 
donkeys. When asked what had become of the two other beasts, 
they said that they had died of cold, and the loss of these two 
animals excited fresh lamentations from among the old women. 

After the elders who had gone out to meet them had got off 
their horses and kissed them, the young men were made to get 
down and tell the story of their adventures. First they went 
southward and then eastward, and though they had seen a great 
many wild camels, they had only killed two, the second at six 
da}^s' march from here. The skins had been cut up into 
rectangular pieces and loaded on a donkey. Nearly all the hair 
had been rubbed off, and they had put it into a bag for fear of its 
being spoilt on the way. 

The return of the chasseurs * and our presence in the village 
are made an occasion for amusements in the evening. The 
women put on their smartest things, in most cases a watered silk 
dress, reminding one of the Bokhara stuffs, with red in front, while 

* It seems a pity that we have not in English a comprehensive word, like " chasseur," 
to designate those who go shooting, limiting, or fishing, as the ease may be. Even 
" the chase " is only used now to designate hunting. — Note of Translator. t 


the wives * of the chief have a caftan trimmed with black sheep- 
leather, while one of them wears her rings passed through one end 
of the fichu which she has on her head, having taken them off her 
lingers for fear of injuring them while cutting reeds for the fire. 
One of the women is rather pretty : a Khotanese, with regular 
features and a pale complexion, which brings into relief her big 
black eyes, surmounted by finely-arched e} r ebrows. Like her 
companions, she is short in stature, but, being better looking, 
she excites their jealousy. Madame Tocaesch, to give her her 
name, very much regrets her native land, finding Abdallah too 
savage, and, to mark her disapprobation, she ran away a few days 
ago to her parents, who reside at Tcharkalik, but they, instead 
of taking her in, informed her husband, and helped him to get 
her back. An honest man, when he has sold his daughter and 
been paid for her, would consider that he had committed a theft 
if he took her back to the prejudice of his son-in-law, and as to 
the girl herself, she is not consulted in the matter. 

Madame Tocaesch shows her superiority over her companions 
by the grace with which she dances. She is accompanied in her 
dance by some of the men, who nod their heads as they move 
round, and stretch out their arms, which are hidden in the long 
sleeves of their Jcalat (large cloak). Although they are agile and 
light-footed, the dance — to which our Russian plays a tune upon 
his harmonium, two or three of the old women chanting in a 
nasal tone — soon becomes monotonous. 

November 9. — The minimum of temperature is about one 
degree below zero, but although the morning is cold there is no 
wind, and it is, therefore, good weather for going up the Tarim. 
Before leaving Abdallah we make a few final purchases (of 
snares, dried fish, sandals made of donkey skin), payment being 
effected in Chinese money, which has to be weighed, a slow and 

* It must be remembered that we are among Mussulmans, each of whom has at 
least two wives — they are fairly cheap. 



troublesome operation to which we shall have to get accustomed. 
Kumshikan Bey and his family allow themselves to be photographed 
again, and he gives us a supply of small loaves of bread made by 
his wife, and wishes us a safe journey. We promise him to 
return " some day," but in the meanwhile we have to ihake a 
start, and choosing between various modes of locomotion, I go on 
foot as far as the first Abdallah, where I take a cup of tea (with a 
piece of butter in it) with the old centenarian, whose sons are 
sharpening their spears and getting their guns ready for the 
pursuit of the wild camels. They accompany us as far as our 
canoes, which have arrived from the other village of Abdallah, 
and, with the weather not so cold as it was yesterday, we ascend 
the stream, our boatmen finding it very hard work to row against 
the strong current. Floating pieces of ice come into collision 
with our canoes, and we are at times almost hemmed in between 
them, the oars having no hold upon their surface. In the bends 
the river is completely frozen over, and we have to break the ice 
and clear a passage, reminding one of polar navigation. The two 
natives who are in charge of our big canoe sing all the time, 
one having a strong harsh voice and the other a falsetto. We 
imitate their singing in order to raise the drooping spirits of our 
own men ; but in spite of all their efforts they cannot make much 
headway, and we have barely advanced ten miles in a straight 
line when we have to stop for the night. Our donkeys and horses 
have overtaken us, and having picketed them, we roll ourselves 
up in our rugs and pass a very pleasant night in the open, despite 
there being twenty-seven degrees of frost. 

November 10. — Navigation, difficult as it was yesterday, now 
becomes impossible, and we have to be content to follow the Tarim 
by going along its banks. We meet boatmen whose canoes are 
firmly fixed in the ice, and they say they have been in this plight 
for three days, unable either to go back or to advance. They ask 
us to give them some food, which we do as far as our scanty 


means permit, and then resume our journey, coming-, a few miles 
higher up, upon a pile of bags, and of reeds which have been cut 
and laid out on the banks. This is opposite a small village called 
Tchaï, the inhabitants of which are about to migrate to Tchar- 
kalik, and have already taken their luggage across. When the}^ 
see us making for their bags they take us for thieves, and begin 
to run away ; but when we assure them that we mean them 
no harm, they gradually gain confidence, and on our offering 
them a cup of tea they become quite convinced that we are 
friends, and give us all the information we ask for. They tell us 
that the sheet of water from which we see the Tarim issue a 
hundred yards or so above Tchaï is the Kara Bouran. though 
it is little more than a series of inundations, representing 
the largest stretch of water to be found in the Lob Nor. It 
begins at the village of Lob, and ends here, being interspersed at 
many points with lagoons and islets. It is nowhere more than three 
feet deep, in most places only a foot, while the lake which we 
skirted above Lob is the Kemezetiantché, which does not commu- 
nicate with the Kara Bouran, for since Prjevalsky came into the 
district the course of the Tarim has been changed, and the level 
of the water has fallen. 

These indications save us the trouble of following the bank of 
the Kara Bouran, and we determine to make a short cut across 
the country opposite Tchaï. 

While the light still lasts I try for a little shooting on the 
Kara Bouran; but we have great difficulty in getting the canoe 
there, as the current of the Tarim is very strong at the entrance 
to the lake, and when we get there it is a sheet of ice, so we have 
to give up the idea of going any farther. My excursion, though 
a brief one, is not altogether fruitless, for I succeed in bringing 
down with No. 4 shot a very fine white swan of the species which 
is domesticated with us, as he flies over my head, while with a 
bullet I kill a goose flying in the midst of a flock, these being two 


shots which I should be sorry to back myself to repeat. In the 
evening the natives attempt to surprise us by their learning, and 
repeat the word " Podi siouda," a Russian term, which they have 
retained in their memory since the visit of Prjevalsky. 

November 11. — Commencing our march by moonlignt, we 
observe for the first time the phenomenon which will strike us so 
often upon the high lands, viz., a sudden drop of the temperature 
as the sun appears above the horizon. We are at present very 
insufficiently protected against the cold, and although we are 
walking, we shiver from head to foot, while, for my own part, I 
do not know what to do with my hands, which are so numbed 
that I cannot get them warm. We have no choice but to wait 
till the sun has got up, when a fresh trouble arises. We are in 
a desert the sand of which is in many places covered with a layer 
of salt, and the refraction is so great that we are constantly being 
led astray by the mirages, while we are dazzled, blinded, and half- 
roasted by the sun into the bargain. It seems as if all the sun's 
rays were converging upon us, and as if there were no choice but 
to let ourselves be thoroughly baked. 

Our horses do not seem to be so much affected by the heat as 
we are, and I really believe that they can smell their stable, though 
still more than thirty miles off. There is no road, and we have 
to guide ourselves by the compass ; but the instinct of our horses 
is the best guide, and Ave speed along at such a rate that a courier 
sent forward by Bonvalot has scarcely time to hand us a letter. 
It arrives rather late, for we are already in the oasis, and before 
long we see a rivulet, some gorse, then some tamarisks, several 
small poplars,* and, last of all, Rachmed, going off at a great pace 
after " those wretched hares." In a few minutes we are in the 
camp, which has the aspect of a small town, with people coming 
and going in all directions, buying and selling, gossiping, and 
nailing down boxes, while in the centre is our little tent, beneath 

* Populus diversifolia. 



which Bonvalot, with his legs crossed Turkish fashion, is enjoy- 
ing a meal of sparrows, cooked on a skewer with slices of sheep's 
liver in between them. 

All is well at Tcharkalik, our Russians are preparing for their 
return, and two men of the country have been engaged to 
accompany us. The provisions are gradually accumulating ; 
bread is being baked with 
plenty of salt in it, sheep's 
paunches are being filled 
with fat, the salt is being 
purified, and the prepara- 
tions are well advanced. 
Our men, however, have 
been greatly obstructed in 
their work by a tempest 
which lasted two days, blew 
down the tent, and covered 
everything with sand. M. 
Bonvalot has effected a 
regular massacre of hares, and we, in return, give him an account 
of our excursion, which has lasted a week, and during which 
we have traced the course of the Tarim in the Lob Nor, and 
have ascertained that this latter name does not now apply to a 
lake, but to all the marshy portion of the country watered by 
the Tarim, from the village of Lob to the end of the river. 

The largest stretch of water in this region is the Kara Bouran, 
a tract under water between Lob and Tchaï. The waters of the 
Tarim are not salt, while there are springs of fresh water (Eutin) 
in the Lob Nor, but the water of the pools formed by the Tarim 
upon a saltpetre surface is brackish. Each year the quantity of 
water which the Tarim brings into the country decreases, the 
pools dry up, and the reeds are more and more covered by 
the sand which is gradually driving the inhabitants towards 




Tcharkalik, so that the time is not far distant when the region 
called the Lob Nor will no longer be distinguishable from the 
desert into the midst of which it now advances like a narrow 
ribbon of verdure unwinding itself from west to east for a dis- 
tance of about a hundred and twenty-five miles. 




"The Southern Road" — Taking Stock — New Recruits: Timour and Iça — Festivities at 
Tcharkalik — A Nomad Moralist and Poet — Tramps — Prince Henry's Return — Taking a 
Chief into Custody — The Dungan and His Master — The Start — Yandaçhkak — The 
Altyn Tagh — Valley of the Djahan-Saï — Tchouhour Saï — Through a Canon — Prince 
Henry Lost. 

November 1. — We* are so far from having completed our work 
that what we have hitherto done has been little more than a 
simple excursion, attended by drawbacks so trifling that they 
merely gave an interest to the journey. I have said that the first 
stage was Kourla, the second is Tcharkalik, and the third would 
be Batang, if all continues to go as well as at present. Batang 
is a long way off, separated from us by deserts and the unknown. 
After Batang we hope to reach Tonquin, at the other end of 
Asia, but when travelling there is not, fortunately, much time 
to reflect upon the difficulties before one. In the meantime we 
have constantly in our minds the passage in the narrative of the 
English traveller Carey, published in the Proceedings of the 
Geographical Society of England, in which he speaks of a route 
going to Lhassa by the Kizil Sou, a river supposed to be beyond 
the mountain chain which Prjevalsky saw, and which he named 
Columbus. Carey had heard the natives talk of this route, but 
they had never shown it to him. According to rumour, it is more 
direct than that of the Tsaïdam, which joins the route of the 
Koukou Nor, first travelled by Fathers Hue and Gabet, and after- 
wards by Prjevalsky. 

We must, therefore, at all costs discover this route which, in 
talking of it, we call " the southern route." We send our men to 
make inquiries, and each of them endeavours to light upon the 

* The narrative is here resumed by M. Bonvalot. — Note of Translator. 


invaluable individual who knows it and is willing to guide us. 
But the mere fact of one of them having asked in a stupid sort of 
way is sufficient to prevent us from getting any definite information. 
Moreover, very few of our men care to pursue the journey. Our 
three Siberians are going to leave us. They had agreed to come 
as far as the Lob Nor, but I cannot persuade them to come on 
farther, and the Dungan camel-driver is also anxious to go back, 
being only kept with us by the promise of high pay. So we look 
out for volunteers in the district, and two offer their services, one 
of them knowing the Bokalik road, which Carey took. We 
promise them good wages, and their arrival helps to raise the 
spirits of the Dungans. 

The chief of our camel-drivers, the aged Imatch, though he 
walks with great difficulty, will hold on to the last, and will go 
wherever the Khotanlis go. Parpa has already been over the road, 
and he does not show the white feather, but he puts on a mys- 
terious air which I do not much like when I speak to him of the 
southern route. If he is to be believed, he is acquainted with a 
very good guide, but does not know his name. He says, how- 
ever, that he can find him, and begs permission to go and ask for 
information in the village, and in the farms scattered about in the 
bush. He returns without bringing any important tidings, and I 
soon ascertain that he has been after something very different 
from the southern route. 

As to our interpreter Abdullah, surnamed the " little man," 
he is still a terrible talker, and a busybody who sees that things 
are not progressing as he would like. He did not think we were 
in earnest when we talked at Kuldja of going to Batang, his 
idea being that we should perhaps go as far as Kourla, and then 
follow the main imperial road to Pekin, or that, at the outside, 
we should go to the Lob Nor and then return. Now he is 
beginning to get anxious, and would like to dissuade us from 
going farther, so we are convinced that we shall not get 



information of any value from him, though he professes to be 
more or less enthusiastic. 

To judge by what we have seen of the two fresh recruits, we 
shall have reason to be satisfied with them later on. The elder is 


called Timour, and has been a shepherd, while he goes in for 
gold-mining and the chase when he has leisure. He is a married 
man, and cultivates a small plot of ground, and as he has often 
explored the Altyn Tagh and the Tchimène Tagh, he feels 
no hesitation about accompanying us over the high table- 
lands. He executes orders without any trouble, is a quick worker, 
and has the reputation of beiDg indefatigable on the march, while 
he takes good care of the horses and camels. He is always in 
good spirits, and, this being a very important point, is content 
with his lot at Tcharkalik. A very small piece of sugar suffices 
fo make him happy, and he seems to take an interest in all we 


do, for he looks at our arms with manifest pleasure and tells 
us the names of the birds we have prepared for our collection. 
In the evening we can hear him singing and telling stories, and 
when Rachmed or one of the others is relating an anecdote, he 
follows all the details of it with close attention. In short, he is 
a poet and an adventurer. When asked if it will be cold in 
the southern mountains, he says yes, and thrusts his hands under 
his sleeves and warms them under his armpits. " But," he adds 
with a laugh, "that will be nothing." Withal he is not too tall 
nor too stout, is very alert, dances well, knows so many prayers 
by heart that he is taken for a mollah, and possesses remedies for 
various complaints. 

The other man, who is only about twenty, is called Iça. He is 
full of vigour, and can skin a sheep very dexterously, and cook 
rice well. He is equally good at eating both, he takes an 
interest in all that relates to cooking, and is ready to split 
wood, light the fire and attend to it, fetch water, and clean out 
the saucepans. He has a very loud laugh, but so natural that 
one likes to hear it, especially as he is generally rather stern. He 
has a good memory, though he is said to be given to smoking 
haschisch in small quantities, but those whom he has previously 
served give him a good character. I saw him one night sleeping 
on a mat before the fire with no covering except a hhalat torn in 
several places. He was sleeping very soundly, though the tire 
had gone out and the minimum temperature of the night was 
two degrees below zero. As he was very well the next day and 
had not caught the slightest cold, I did not want to know more. 

We renew our provisions, the important thing being to ensure 
plenty for the subsistence both of men and of beasts, for from all we 
have read and from all we can learn on the spot, those who have 
preceded us were obliged to turn back from want of provisions. 
It is as important to feed the beasts of burden well as the men, for 
when the means of transport fail all exploring is impossible. 


As we can procure flour and barley here and get it made into 
bread, we employ all the women in the place, one procuring us 
one hundred pounds, and another fifty pounds, and we make them 
bake a small quantity at a time, and taste it to see that it is what 
we want. We buy all the dried fruits we can get, as well as rope, 
horse-shoes, and nails, while we have winter clothing made for 
the horses and camels. 

The men's pelisses are sewn and made larger, trousers and 
leggings are made out of sheepskins, and plenty of leather leggings 
are provided, as well as leather stockings, into which the foot is 
inserted after it has been well wrapped up in felt. One of our 
Russians is a shoemaker, and we employ him to make our felt 
boots, while the men prepare their own according to the fashion 
of their respective tribes. 

There is a regular market every day on the outskirts of our 
little camp, and what with the chaffering, the disputing, and the 
laughing, the scene is very animated. We gradually get on friendly 
terms with the natives, and at the end of a week have acquired 
a certain degree of authority at Tcharkalik. We have created a 
" French party " in the place, and it is among the members of this 
party that we shall find men to transport our provisions for a 
month or more. 

On the birthday festival of Mahomet the authorities came in 
a body to pay a visit and offer us presents. They were anxious 
that we should participate in their rejoicings, for w T e were far 
from home and hearth, and it would be unbecoming if they were 
not to invite us. I thanked them, and repeated the assurance 
that we had no bad intentions in our hearts, affirming that our 
acts would always be in keeping with our words. They said they 
believed what we told them, and asked permission to entertain our 
men. This, of course, I readily granted, and all day long the 
festival of Mahomet was celebrated by feasts, songs, dances, and 
sports, in which Rackmed, who is very agile, obtained marked 



success. Two sheep which we had given them were cooked in 
the immense pot belonging to the mosque. This pot came to a 

bad end, as we burst it while using it to 
refine crystallised salt — a mishap of evil 
omen which was atoned for by a present. 
November 8. — A terrible tempest from 
the north-east howled all last night, and 
compels us to construct a shelter for 
our kitchen. The temperature drops 
very suddenly, and this morning the 
natives appear in the guise of North- 
erners, all of them wearing sheepskins 
and the furs of wild animals, such as 
foxes and wolves. Our people avail them- 
selves of the opportunity to try on their 
winter costumes, and very odd some of 
them look. 

A man arrived in the course of the 
PAKPA morning from Abdallah village with 

donkeys and horses, bringing at the same 
time some wild duck, and a letter from Prince Henry. Another 
piece of news announces the arrival at Abdallah of four Kal- 
mucks, who are believed to form the advance guard of the Khan 
of the Kalmucks, this personage being on his way back from a 
pilgrimage to Lhassa. He is expected to arrive in a very deplor- 
able condition, as his caravan has been decimated, and he has lost 
two hundred camels and twenty men. He has made the return 
journey chiefly with doutasses (yaks), and has come by way of 
the Tsaïdam, for the messenger says that when the Khan of 
the Kalmucks attempted to reach the "City of the Spirits," 
some twenty years ago by way of the Kizil Sou, he had to turn 
back because the mountains were impassable. 

The Aksalcaloi the Khotanlis having brought me some marmot 


fat as a cure for an attack of rheumatism from which I am 
suffering", I questioned him about the route of the Kizil Sou, and, 
without giving a definite opinion, he let me understand that 
little importance was to be attached to what the Lobi says. As 
regards the difficulty of the route, he says there can be no 
doubt as to that, and that upon one occasion, when he went in the 
direction of Bokalik with one hundred and fifty asses to bring 
back gold and skins, he lost a number of his beasts and some of 
his companions. Their death was due to the cold, and above all to 
the pestilential odours emitted from the soil, which were even 
more fatal to the asses than to the men. It is impossible to learn 
anything definite as to this route, the existence of which we regard 
as more than probable. The natives of Lob and Tcharkalik have 
never followed it, and the Kalmuck pilgrims have no information 
on the subject. Parpa asserts that a guide whom he knows is 
returning with the band of the Khan of the Torgots, and he 
asks leave to go and meet him at Abdallah. This leave I refuse, 
as he has two months' wages in his pocket, and with the cold 
weather setting in, he might be tempted to return home. 

After the tempest, the atmosphere is more free from dust, and 
the sky becomes clear. It freezes, however, harder than the 
natives care about, the minimum under the tent being 10°. This 
sudden fall of temperature has alarmed the population, all of 
whom have quitted their houses and now make off into the 
bush, those who are strong enough to do so carrying a faggot 
on their backs. The Aryk is frozen, and the fields in 
fallow are white with frost; and the last of the swallows 
have fled to warmer climes. We, too, are impatient to make 
a start. 

After the storm had raged for two days, the sun re- 
appeared, and, with the sparrows chirruping and the natives 
returning to our camp, business begins to look up again. For the 
purchase of the smallest bit of cloth, or a pound of grapes, 


interminable speeches are made, and the names of Allah and of 
Mahomet his prophet are incessantly invoked. 

November 9. — The minimum is 2° below zero, with a refresh- 
ing breeze from the north-west, while it is 70° in the sun. 
The natives have turned the waters of the Aryk into the wells, 
so as to secure a full supply for the winter ; and for the 
last week the mills have been going, in anticipation of this 
time of scarcity, each householder being anxious to have plenty 
of flour in store. 

A singer, who seems to me very proficient, accompanies 
himself upon a guitar, and gives us a song as we sit in front 
of the fire ; the dancers, male and female, going through their 
performances to the same music in more or less graceful attitudes. 
The burden of the song is that the world is all delusion, and that 
man is always looking for the realization of desires which it would 
be as difficult for him to obtain as it would be to seize the moon, 
though he sees her every month. 

The singer is said to be the author of the couplets he 
sings, and we ask him to accompany us in our journey 
and bring with him his guitar, which is made of two pieces 
of poplar wood ; for a moralist like him would be a desirable 
acquisition to our party. He has travelled about a good 
deal, having been to Yarkand, and prospected for gold in all 
sorts of places, but he does not appear to have made his fortune, 
and it is his disappointments that have inspired him with this 
doleful song. He has the reputation of being an honest fellow, 
and at the festival of Mahomet he won the wrestling prize in the 
"Otympic" games. Although a native of Ivhotanli, he is the 
intimate friend of a certain Abdullah Ousta, who is very proficient 
in the art of iron-working, and who belongs to Lob. Some years 
ago Tokta, as the singer is called, did a considerable service to 
the aged Abdullah. The latter had got lost while pursuing wild 
camels, and would not have been able to rejoin his companions 


had not Tokta come upon him when he was almost dead with 
hunger and fatigue. From that time the two men have been 
very much attached to each other. 

We have ordered some iron nails and pegs from Abdullah 
Ousta*'and we hope to enroll him in our party, for Tokta assures 
us that there is no one better acquainted with the mountain than 
the old man, who is still very vigorous, though his beard is white. 
If he consents to accompany us, his example will be followed by 
many others. 

Tokta, before leaving us, says that we shall get plenty of help 
if the white beards of the Lobis do not interfere, and that the 
Khotanlis are all in our favour. 

Eachmed says Tokta may very well be trusted, because he is 
" Saïa." 

"What is 'Saïa'?" 

" A man like ourselves, who cannot stay >long in one place, 
owing to his mother's fault." 

" Explain yourself." 

" That is what happened in my case, and must have done 
in that of Tokta. Our mothers, when pregnant with us, travelled 
through the desert on camels ; and as they strained their eyes to 
see beyond the horizon, they made of us ' Saïa,' or tramps. And 
that is why we are again about to march southward, and Allah 
alone knows when and where we shall stop. And we shall do 
well to start, for the route seems to me a long one, while those 
cursed camels do not go fast." 

Thereupon Eachmed reproaches me for having taken him into 
my service when he scarcely had any beard, of having made him 
grow more white hairs than black, and of having made him miss 
several desirable marriages. Then, being very volatile, he flies off 
at a tangent and plays some joke upon the man next him, loading 
him with the insults which the Uzbegs offer in all good humour. 

Eachmed is right; it is urgent that we should start, but 


all is not yet ready. The Dungan must make up his mind to go, 
and then we can apportion the loads according to the strength of 
the different animals. At least forty donkeys and ten men are 
required to relieve our own beasts a little, and feed them, as well 
as the men, for a month. The Khotanlis have as good as promised 
us half, but the question is whether the Lobis will supply the 
other half. It is always difficult to be prepared for every con- 
tingency when setting out for a long march. We find this out 
once more, and Pachmed confidentially mentions that he has 
doubts with regard to the Dungan and the Lobis. 

As soon as Prince Henry and Dedeken return from the Lob 
we shall settle these questions ; in the meantime the best course 
will be to display great amiability, to pay liberally, and never 
to refuse a request for medicine or drugs. 

November 11. — While busy eating some roast sparrows cooked 
by Parpa, I heard the voice of Prince Henry, who arrived in high 
spirits after a journey of over forty miles since daybreak. He 
appears to be in excellent health and condition, and his first 
question, after inquiring how we all are, was as to when we 
were to start. While I was telling him how we are situated 
Father Dedeken arrived, and to celebrate our re-union, we 
had tea got ready and a repast cooked. While it was in pre- 
paration we talked of the Lob Nor, and their conclusion is that it 
is but a vast marsh interspersed with jungles, amid which are 
hidden the dwellings of fishermen. 

Before starting we have to arrange for the return of our 
three Siberians, as they are to go back to Kuldja with our col- 
lections and letters, which the Russian Consul will send on for us 
to Paris. We give them camels for conveying the packages to 
Kourla, where they will purchase an arba (sort of waggon), for it 
is their intention to return by the imjDerial highway of Urumtsi, 
making the circuit of the Tien Shan (Celestial Mountains). We 
give them plenty of food and ammunition, and should have much 



liked to retain at least one of the three, but Borodjin was married, 
and Maltzoff had undertaken the journey so as to make a small 
sum for her wedding, while the third, Couznetzoff, whom we had 
engaged at Tiumen, would not have been as useful to us as 


either of the others, for he is no longer young, and is unfitted 
for very severe labour; but as an assistant in our naturalist 
work, he has always been most conscientious and willing, display- 
ing care, order, and patience. We cannot be too thankful to him 
or say too much in his favour. 

November 12. — We ask the municipality to supply us, at a 
price to be mutually agreed upon, with horses, and with donkeys 
to carry a portion of our provisions as far as the vicinity of the 
Kizil Sou, by way of the Bokalik route. We are promised an 
answer for to-morrow, after a council has been held. 

November 13. — This morning we see a large body of men 
approaching our camp ; the chiefs and nearly all the people of the 


village, Khotanlis and Lobis alike, being present. They halt at 
the threshold of our temporary domain, and a tall fellow with a 
scanty goatee, whom we have not seen before, opens the conversa- 
tion, and explains himself to Iiachmed, who interprets what he 
says. We learn that the speaker is the principal chief of the 
Lobis, and he says in so many words that they will give us neither 
men nor asses, because it is too cold for mountaineering, and that 
to travel over the table-land at this season is certain death, etc. 

Rachmed, in very gentle terms, insists. He reminds his 
hearers "of the good we have done in the country, of the money 
we have spent in it, of the high j3rices we have paid for every- 
thing with the object of being of service to the poor vendors ; " 
then he asks how it is that the promises made to us but yesterday 
are not kept, and inquires whether we have given reason for sup- 
posing that we shall not pay, as we have promised to do. 

In the meanwhile we learn that secret orders have arrived 
from Kourla. The Lobi chiefs are said to have been prohibited 
from rendering us any assistance, and as they have asked for the 
aid of the Chinese against the Khotanlis, they are determined to 
obey orders and to put obstacles in our way. 

The Lobi chief gets arrogant, and exclaims, "By Jupiter! 
if jon want donkeys you shall pay twice their value, and I 
won't sell you any. As to men for your service, not one shall 
leave the country. We are not under any bond to you ; we do 
not pay }^ou a tax — we pay it to the Chinese. No, we are under 
no bond to you, and we are not afraid of you ! We have numbers 
on our side, we are brave, you cannot frighten us ! " 

As he spoke, Eachmed, who felt the necessity of immediate 
action, used the argumentum ad hominem, and began to belabour 
this great orator. His own people were inclined to defend him, 
but we drove them back by threatening them with our weapons, 
and kejyfc the leader in custody, stating that we would only release 
him in exchange for the eighteen donkeys and five horses, which 


constituted the contingent the Lobis were to supply. The Kho- 
tanlis then intervened and acted as mediators between the two 
parties, interceding for the chief, who was very downcast, and 
promising that they would make things all right. 

We hear the exclamations of the women upon the roofs and 
in the brushwood, the dogs bark, the donkeys bray, and there is 
a general uproar. 

However, the chief whom we had in our clutches was con- 
soled with a cup of well-sugared tea. Timour advised him to 
think better of his decision, as he had everything to gain by 
obeying us, and as we were certain not to give him his liberty 
again until we had made sure of his co-operation. 

The chief then asked for one of his men, and ordered him to 
"give them what they ask for." This messenger returned to the 
assembly which was being held some distance off, in front of the 
palace of a chief who has a wife belonging to Lob, though he is 
a native of Khotan. Some emissaries were at once sent back to 
us to ask that the king might be set at liberty. But we refused 
this unless certain guarantees were given us. The messengers 
returned, and a fresh council was held, with the result that they 
came back in a body, accompanied by the grey-beards, who swore 
that we should have as many donkeys, guides, and hunters as we 
desired, but they were not to go further than the land of the 
Kalmucks of the Tsa'idam. 

They add : " We cannot show you the donkeys, because 
there has not been time to collect them, but here are the Lobis 
who will accompany you." The men are then made to step 
forward, and we are asked to examine them. Then follow 
declarations " by the beard " and " by Jupiter," and all the 
divinities are invoked ; the crowd approves, gesticulates, and lifts 
up its voice, while all around us are people smiling, waving their 
arms with suppliant gestures, grinning amicably, and murmuring 
assent to whatever any of the others may say. 


It is only at the last extremity that we agree to let the chief 
have his liberty, when the crowd and the chiefs who inhabit 
Tcharkalik have authorised us, by their beards, to indulge in 
reprisals if they fail in their promise to supply us with what we 
require. They instruct one of their men, who offered us hos- 
pitality on our arrival, and with whom we have always been 
on friendly terms, to organise the contingent. Our host assents 
with a nod, while the other chiefs inform us that they are 
going to be absent for several days, their duty being to go 
and meet the Khan of the Kalmucks on his way back from 

The principal chief, having been set at liberty, soon comes 
to take leave of us, and, with his nose slightly swollen, re- 
peats the promises already made, and swears that he has given 
orders for them to be executed. After a profuse display of 
politeness, he mounts his horse and rides off. Our camp relapses 
into comparative silence, the crowd having dispersed, but we 
hear on all sides fresh exclamations and j)ositive lamentations. 
What can have hapjoened ? Upon inquiry we find that all the 
noise is being made by the women whose beasts have been 
requisitioned, and who are moaning and groaning to each other 
on the roofs over the sad fate of their jackasses. 

We are not dissatisfied with the day's work ; the submission 
of the Lobis has led to that of the Dungan camel-driver, who 
obstinately declined to go any further, despite the engagement he 
had entered into, and a treaty signed with his thumb, or rather 
to which he had applied his thumb smeared in ink. But 
although the Dungan resigns himself to his fate, it is not 
without heaping maledictions upon those who have acted as 
interpreters. He keeps on exclaiming, " I have been put into a 
bag," and vents his ill-humour upon his servant Niaz, who 
is a native of Tourfan. And as Niaz has not been paid his 
wages, he retorts by asking for what is owing to him, and even 


for a little on account, as lie is not clad warmly enough to 
encounter severe cold. But his master is sordidly mean, and, 
as Niaz says, is the worst-tempered person in China. We 
have to interfere on his behalf, whereupon the Dungan takes 
the opportunity of asking for an advance from us, for he says 
he has to settle his accounts and send money to Kourla. 
Niaz tells us not to believe a word of this, and says his master 
will not pay his debts, but will hoard up his monej^. 

November 15. — All these little things indicate that it is high 
time to be off, so we finish our preparations, writing letters, 
and paying the men who are going back, as well as those who are 
coming with us, and others who have supplied us with provisions. 
We have added to our caravan three dogs of the country, two of 
which are enormous hounds of the kind here called pista, forty 
donkeys, and a dozen men in two detachments, one under the 
orders of Abdullah Ousta, the other commanded by Tokta, the 
Khotanli. We have, I think, taken every conceivable precaution 
against the unknown, for we have with us two canoes and paddles 
in case of our being brought to a standstill by a river, and if we 
do not want them for the water, we may be glad of them as 

November 16. — All is ready. We take with us 700 small 
bundles of hay to feed our horses, which are bound to die off 
the first. We have taken into account the probability, not to 
say the certainty, of deaths, in order to fix the quantity of rations 
we need to take with us, and it is in proportion to the number of 
beasts of burden that we have ; so that the load may decrease as 
the animals die, and that the survivors may not be over-burdened 
just when their strength has declined. Experience tells us about 
how much is wanted to feed the fourteen men of our regular 
army for five, or, at the outside, six months. 

The sight of these bags and chests imparts courage to Rach- 
med, who exclaims : " With the help of Allah, all will be well." 


Yet, if we are to believe the natives, we shall not go far, for 
they say that the camels will not be able to cross the Altyn Tagh 
if they follow the route taken by the Englishman Carey, while 
the "little man" will have it that Prjevalsky was of the same 
opinion. However, we are impatient to put the matter to the 
test, and the start is fixed for the 17th. 

November 17. — In the morning the animals were loaded, amid 
a scene of great excitement, the whole population being present — 
women, children, friends and relatives of those who are going 
with us. It was not merely the sight of our departure which 
attracted them, for they had come for the same reason as the 
sparrows, which, perched on the willows near the camp, were only 
waiting for our departure to swoop down upon the grains of 
barley on the ground, just as the crowd of onlookers was eager to 
seize the empt}^ boxes and bits of cloth which we were leaving 

At last the caravan is ready, and we start, amid bright sun- 
shine, accompanied by the chiefs on horseback, who will go with 
us to the camp, a few miles from Tcharkalik, the first stage being 
always a very short one. It terminates at the entrance to the 
desert, on the other bank of the small stream which makes 
the oasis, and from which we shall once a^ain g-et «-ood water. 
To us, who have drunk so much brackish water, this is the most 
delicious of liquids. 

Forty minutes on horseback suffice to take us out of the oasis 
into the desert, and as we get out of the saddle to sit upon the 
felt where the chiefs offer us " the stirrup curj," we cast a glance 
towards the Gobi, with its deceptive mirage of beautiful lakes, 
the mountains to the south-east just emerging out of the mist. 

Before sunset, the elders bid us farewell, the beaten chief, who 
is not the least cordial among them, being of the number. 
To him, as to the others, we offer a present, and they say, as 
they wish us a successful journey — "May Allah grant you good 


health, and take you back safe and sound to your families who 
are so far off ! We are poor, and have not been able to do as 
much for you as we could have wished. You will excuse us. 
May Allah protect you ! " 

We shook hands with them and thanked them, regretting 
there should have been a little misunderstanding, but they had 
never seen any men of our race, and were suspicious. We ex- 
pressed a hope that they would henceforth receive any of our 
countrymen with open arms, and would not retain an unpleasant 
recollection of us, but regard us as friends. Then they exchanged 
confidences with the goldseekers and trappers who had deter- 
mined to go with us, and who said, " Look after my father; urge 
my wife to be patient in my absence. Give her corn on credit ; I 
will pay when I come back. Take care of yourself. May Allah 
keep you," etc. Then they embraced one another, those of the 
same family kissing lip to lip, while others squeezed the hand of 
their seniors, who imprinted a kiss upon their foreheads. Next 
a grey-beard recited a prayer, and when he had done, they all 
raised their hands to their beards and exclaimed, "Allah is great!" 

The wife of Timour, a small and very active brunette, has 
remained with her husband. She is very quick at sewing bags, 
while her son, a little boy of four, clad in sheepskin, with a dirty 
face, snub nose, and the small and piercing black eyes of his father, 
amuses himself by tapping the boxes, and singing " There is 
only one Allah," until, at sunset, our three Russians make up 
their minds to part from their companions. After an exchange 
of embraces and good wishes, they return to our camp of the 
morning, where they have left their luggage. We hope that the 
letters they have taken will get to Europe in about three months, 
and we go to sleep after having gossiped about the future, being 
all agreed that so far we have succeeded wonderfully well. 

November 18. — The minimum temperature of the night was 
only 16 degrees of frost, but this was sufficient to freeze the 


river, and we take some ice out of it. We shall not get any 
drinkable water at the place where we encamp to-night, and m 
future these lumps of ice will be our only drink. 

We are in the bare and stony desert ; to our right being a dark 
and indistinct mass looming out of the mist, which thé aged 
Abdullah says is the Altyn Tagh, the gold mountains which have 
not before been visible in our approach to them. They appear 
to be lofty, but none of their details can be distinguished, and no 
peak is discernible. On the other side, he tells us, begins the 
land of ice, and we shall find it very cold. 

Our troop is rather silent, and the men, instead of chatting 
cheerfully as is their wont, Hick their horses in a mechanical 
sort of way, with a fixed look on their faces. The morrow of 
separation is always melancholy, especially when one is bound for 
the unknown, and neither physically nor morally is one up to the 

We approach some sand-hills on our left, the outposts of 
the Gobi. It is there that we are to encamp, our donkeys 
and the flock of sheep we take with us for food on the road 
following us very closely, and making a pretty picture as they are 
driven along by men wearing white frieze. From the sand we 
get on to talcirs formed of fire-clay, and then again on to the sand, 
going up and down hillocks formed by the crumbling away of 
the mountain and the sweepings of the plain. 

Abdullah Ousta, getting off his horse, begins to search for 
water, which he is not long in discovering, from its proximity 
to the salt on the surface ; and when the donkeys have been 
unloaded, the men take their pickaxes and dig a hole, which 
is soon filled with salt water. 

We make some tea, which we drink pending the arrival of the 
camels with the ice ; and though it is not very nice, we must 
apprentice ourselves to the desert. I have often noticed that 
whenever one starts on a long expedition there are some cases of 

"""^•••s, " ~ — ■** — t««c^e 

TCHOUKOUR SA1 (p. 133). 




illness in the caravan, and to-day four or five men declare that 
they are quite done up, though the stage was a very short one 
and we have been favoured with beautiful weather. This is what 
one may call desert sickness, similar to the discomfort experienced 
by sonfè sailors for the first few da} r s they are at sea. 

This place, called Yandachkak, abounds with ioulgoun 
(tamarisks), and our brilliantly illuminated encampment reminds 
me of one in the Oust Ourt, where there was an abundance 
of saxaoid. In the evening we have no fewer than four 
fires going at once. Our men might perhaps be more econo- 
mical of their fuel, but the thought that, farther on, they will not 
be able to get any, makes them anxious to make the most of the 
opportunity, and there is nothing more cheerful than the flames 
of a bright fire lighting up the gloom of the desert: 

After supper Abdullah Ousta, accompanied by some of the 
men, comes to talk to us and to ask if we are still deter- 
mined to follow the " old road,"' as that taken by Carey is called. 
He points out that we shall be brought to a stop by two passes, 
and he repeats that Carey, with donkeys, had the greatest 
difficulty in passing them, as Parpa would tell us. The first is 
called the " Sand Pass," and one reaches the foot of it by so 
narrow a gorge that very probably the camels would not be able 
to traverse it. Moreover, there is no sort of track over the Sand 
Pass. The second is called the " Pass of Stones," and its name 
indicates that it is very dangerous to camels' feet. His con- 
clusion is that we should follow the " road of the Kalmucks " — 
that is to say, the Tsaïdam route — which is the best, while by 
the old road we should be five days without water. 

While thanking him for his observations, we repeat that we 
intend to follow the " old road," our conviction being that this is 
the branch of the southern route which we are intent on finding, 
and we add that nothing will induce us to change our minds till 
we get proof to the contrary. The men withdraw after promising 


to serve us faithfully and obey us implicitly, and we send them a 
little tea and sugar, which they drink while seated around the 
cheerful fires. The air is filled with melody, which proceeds from 
Tokta, our poet, who is scraping his allahrabdb, and, with a 
pure voice, is singing a very plaintive song, which strikes one as 
charming in this environment. The song seems to be inspired 
by the sand, by the cavity out of which the brackish water is 
drawn, and by the sterility of the soil. It is the song of one 
who confesses to being overcome by nature — the plaint of a 
captive asking if he can ever escape from the forbidding solitude 
in which he is enveloped. 

November 19. — At break of day, we hear that the camels are 
missing. Men start off in search of them in all directions, and it 
is not long before they are led back through the desert. 

The route is monotonous and stony, and the higher we get the 
larger become the stones, which trappers have piled up at short 
intervals so as to mark off the road. 

At last, the Altyn Tagh is visible to our right, its slopes 
appearing devoid of all vegetation, eaten into as they have been 
by the waters ; and the eye can follow the burrows in which the 
shadows wind along, deeper or shallower according as they de- 
note the course of the streams, the torrents, or the rivulets, by 
which the water drains off the mountain. 

Having marched for six hours nearly due east, we halt in a 
valley watered by the Djahan Saï, which also bears the name of 
Kuntchi Khan, a great Lob chief. He is said to have come from 
the Tsaïdam with his flocks, and, having discovered this river 
while on a hunting expedition, it took his fancy, and he brought 
his family to settle here. This river is said always to have plenty 
of water, which we can quite believe, as its whitish, milky colour 
indicates that it proceeds from a glacier. The natives say, 
indeed, that there is a small glacier at its source. The volume of 
water is considerable, but the sands suck it all up before it 


reaches the Lob. About ten miles to the north of our camp, half- 
way to Abdullah, the land is irrigated and cultivated, and after 
the harvest is gathered, the tillers of the soil go to live in various 
villages near Lake Lob. 

These indications as to a discovery made by a chief coming 
from the Tsaïdam render it probable that the natives of Thibet 
must have become intermixed with the Lobis, though not in any 
great measure, a supposition to a certain extent confirmed by the 
fact that, when we had penetrated into the centre of Thibet, we 
heard the natives singing the same melodies as the people of the 
Lob Nor. 

The valley of the Djahan Saï is characterised by blocks of 
granite which have been scored, perforated, and fashioned by 
nature, and which affect the shape of boughs, bones, shoulder- 
blades, and shafts of columns, the aspect being that of a ceme- 
tery, the tombs of which have been profaned, and the corpses 
hacked to pieces and scattered to the winds. 

We come upon traces of gazelles and also of donkeys, and 
are told that some chasseurs from the Lob have recently returned 
with the remains of koidans, a species of horse which roams in 
large troops over the highlands. 

November 20. — In the morning the level of the river had risen 
a little. Its water is still white in colour, and Abdullah Ousta is 
confident that at a week's march south-east there is a glacier. 

We encamp at Tchoukour Saï, and on the way come across 
some saœaouls, from which our men at once make faggots, 
being well aware that there is no wood in this district which 
emits more heat. These shrubs still bear their berries, but un- 
fortunately these are unfit for food. 

Our camp is in the desert, beyond the Tchoukour Saï — a 
deep gorge without one drop of water. We shall halt a day 
here, and send our animals to feed on the mountain, near to some 
water, as it is indispensable to undertake the passage of the 


Koum Dawan and the Tasli Dawan Avith beasts which are 

November 21. — To-da}" is accordingly devoted to rest, after a 
night during which the temperature was only about five degrees 
below freezing, with a light breeze from the north-west, while in 
the daytime the thermometer rose to fifty degrees. We spend the 
day in effecting Acinous repairs and in cleaning, everybody being 
in good-humour, except the Dungan camel-driver, who has set 
up his bivouac a little way from ours, and is sulking. His attend- 
ant Niaz sa}^s he is in a viler humour than ever, and that he 
keeps on grumbling and declaring he has been humbugged. Niaz 
adds that he is like a dog being led along with a string round 
his neck, showing his teeth all the time, and he is, therefore, glad 
to come to the fire with our men, being always sure they will 
give him a drink of tea. 

November 22. — Three-quarters of an hour from the camp, after 
the first, but not the last, pass of this journey, Ave descend more 
than 100 yards into a canon, Avhich shapes its Avay southward, 
and comes out at the foot of the Koum DaAvan. This canon is very 
picturesque seen from above ; it narrows as one gets higher, 
Avhile immediately below us it is a narroAV gorge, in which the 
Avater has left numerous deposits. From all sides the high and 
steep banks have caused the sand to silt down, and there are 
frequent lodgments of the alluvium, in the mass of Avhich large 
caA T ities have been eaten out. 

Advancing in this defile, Ave reached a narrow gallery paA r ed 
with ice, lying under the mountain, Avhich the Avater has eaten 
into. It would not require a great effort of the imagination to 
fancy oneself in an enchanted palace. But if the entrance to this 
gallery Avas eas}*, it Avas more difficult to get out of it. We had to 
climb up steps formed by enormous stones Avhich had rolled 
doAvn from aboA r e, and which the camels could not get over. 
After having examined the route further on, and concluded 



that it was practicable for these awkward animals, we determined 
to clear a way for them at any cost. With their iron pick- 
axes, our men succeeded in two hours' time in making the 
passage feasible ; and, having got the camels through, we bent 
a little to the south-east, and en- 
camped beside a stream not yet 
frozen over. The water, though 
a trifle salt, is quite drinkable, 
, and we should be very thankful 
never to taste worse. 

In this region there are 
plenty of traces of wild animals, 
such as wolves, foxes, and 
gazelles. A troop of fine ani- 
mals with curved horns looks 
down upon us from the crest of 
the hill as we get off our horses, 

and it is evident, from the foot- «g ) 

prints on the banks of the 
stream, that they were coming 
down to drink. Our appearance THE dungan. 

has brought them to a standstill, 

and when Prince Henry fires a shot at them, the whole troop 
scuttles off at a tremendous pace to the opposite side of the 
gorge, Prince Henry goes in pursuit, and when night sets in 
he is still absent. So we go off in search of him, for fear of 
some accident having occurred, and discover him, not far from 
the camp, upon a rocky ledge, from which he can neither come 
down nor go back. At last, by means of ropes, we get him 
down, and he returns to the camp very well satisfied at having 
made the acquaintance of the Jcoulcou-iaman {Pseudo Ovis bur hell), 
but disappointed not to have found the one he had wounded. 

Thus it is that we form acquaintance with the fauna peculiar 


to Thibet. The incident shows how quickly travel binds people 
together, for our men, though they had had a hard day, did not 
need any telling to go in search of Prince Henry, being sincerely 
anxious about him, and ready to start in a moment. 

I thank them, as they sit round the fire, for their energy, and 
it is a good sign that they do not indulge in too many pro- 
testations, their silence indicating that they have no thoughts 
to conceal. Seeing, close to our camp, traces of men and donkeys, 
we question Abdullah Ousta on the subject, and he tells us that 
a month ago a party of fourteen men, including two of his sons, 
went on a shooting expedition in the direction of Bokalik. 
When we ask him if the Kizil Sou is in that direction, he says 
it is, but that he has never been there. 

It is clear that whenever one speaks of the Kizil Sou, it is 
impossible to get any information, and I notice that Abdullah 
Ousta appears to be ill at ease, while the others, who say 
nothing, could give us some information, if I am not mistaken. 
So I say — 

"Has no one been to the Kizil Sou? Yet it is said that 
there is a great deal of gold to be found there. Don't you know 
anyone, Abdullah, who has lived in those parts ?" 

" There is not one of us who has been to the Kizil Sou. But 
I may say that a man of Lob is there at the present moment. 
He left the Lob last year, and we have no news of him." 

" What was his object in going ? " 

" To seek for gold, though he took arms with him for shoot- 
ing, so that he might be able to supply himself with food, the 
country being uninhabited." 

" Is he alone ? " 

" Yes, he has not even a donkey with him. He is a poor 
man, beset by creditors, to whom, not having the means to 
pay them, he gave his only son in pledge, and as his son works 
for his principal creditor, the father, having resolved to procure 





his son's freedom, asked permission to go off on this expedition. 
He made his own powder, got some shot given him, took his 
pelisse and his tools, and set out for the region where gold is 
found. He begged his neighbours to give themselves no further 
concent about him, as he did not intend to return till he had 
secured a sum sufficient to pay his debts and make him free of 
creditors for the rest of his life. He went off at the beginning 
of last year, and we have heard nothing of him since." 

It is difficult to say whether this story, which has quite a 
Biblical flavour, is true, or whether it has been invented by 
Abdullah Ousta, in order to show us that he is anxious to 
keep us well informed; for there is no reading the hearts of these 
Orientals. However, we must keep our weather eye open. 




Ascent of the Koum Da-wan — The Beginning of Mountain Sickness — A Musical Evening — 
At Uzun Tchor — Iça's Reformation — A Caravan Sighted — The Plain of Tchimène — A 
Providential Meeting — Bagh Tokai — The Southern Route Discovered at Last — Making 
for Namtso — Diplomacy. 

November 23. — From Boulak Bachi — that is to say, the " Head 
of the Spring " — we made our way towards the first pass, which 
we had been led to expect with so much apprehension. After half 
an hour's march along the side of the gorge, we descended into the 
dry bed of a torrent, and halted at the foot of a sand mountain. 
This is the Koum Dawan, which has to be climbed, and as it is 
devoid of the slightest vestige of a path, to us falls the doubtful 
honour of tracing one as best we can. It is useless to think of 
ascending the course of the torrent with our camels, and of 
following the donkeys, which, after they have been unloaded, 
are hoisted up the steep path as if they were themselves so much 
baggage. There is nothing for it but to attack the Koum 
Dawan. Our troop sets to work and endeavours to make some 
sort of a route for the camels by use of the feet, the pickaxe, the 
spade, etc., care being taken to render the ascent gradual. Then 
the file of camels is set in motion. The sand is extremely fine, 
and does not, on the slope, offer sufficient resistance for the 
camels to find a place where they can with safety put down the 
large hoofs of their clumsy feet. They keep falling on to their 
knees, and as this is their resting posture, they remain quite 
content and bar the passage to those behind. Our men have 
great trouble in getting them up, and in some cases they keep 
dragging themselves along on their knees till they are flogged on 
to their feet. It is a long business to get them over, and it 
is accompanied by quite an orgie of imprecations and curses, 



the word our, which means " flog," being- the most frequent. 
The heavily loaded donkeys and the sheep bring np the rear, with 
drooping heads and ears. 

After a repetition of the same incidents, and after having 
crossed two sandy ridges, we descended by a steep path into 
the same valley which we had quitted in the morning. The 
ascent of the Koum Dawan had r , «., 

taken us eight hours, and although 
we had only got a few hundred yards 
higher than the camp of the previous 
day, our men complained of violent 
pains in the head, accompanied by 
cold feet. This was the beginning 
of mountain sickness, and old Imatch 
was the principal sufferer, for he was 
weak on the legs, and as he had to 
get off his horse and walk he was 
quite exhausted. 

November 24. — We made our en- 
campment not far from the Tash 
Dawan. The nearer we get to the akoun. 

mountain, the more deserted does it 

seem. It is quite bare, and in all directions narrow ridges 
emerge out of the dust and sand. Mountain sickness continues 
to prevail, and this is beginning to be so alarming in its propor- 
tions that it will be a relief to have crossed the Tash Dawan, or 
"Pass of Stones," which, as we are assured, is more difficult than 
the "Sand Pass." 

November 26. — To-day and yesterday have been devoted to the 
Tash Dawan, our troop being quite exhausted. Several of 
them have been bleeding from the nose, though we have not yet 
reached the altitude of Mont Blanc. The ascent is so steep that 
we have been compelled at times to hoist up the camels, and men 


have had to cany the baggage from the bottom. We are 
encamped in the midst of a narrow stony valley, quite arid, and 
without any sign of brushwood. Our provision of ice is 
diminishing, and the animals have not drunk for two days. So 
the new recruits who find themselves in this desolate mountain are 
quite out of heart, and full of gloomy forebodings. The Dun- 
gan in particular is very exasperated, and keeps on saying, " If 
the route is not better further on, what is to become of us ? And 
there is very little chance of its improving, for from the summit of 
this accursed sjDot we can only see in front of us mountain piled 
upon mountain." When little Abdullah goes up to the camel- 
driver and salutes him politely in the hope of getting some 
of his Chinese delicacies, he is greeted Avith an outburst of 
insults and curses, the Dungan shaking his fist at him, 
spitting at him, and calling out with angry sobs, " Cursed 
dog, you have deceived me ; you come to contemplate your 
work. You want to see whether I am near to dying. Be off 
with you ! " 

Little Abdullah makes off at his best pace, and I am dis- 
appointed at not being able to eat any of this Chinese paste ; 
for, cut up small, cooked in water and with fat, and well seasoned 
with salt and pepper, it makes a rather agreeable article of food, 
in default of anything better. 

The night was a particularly bad one, for Rachmed, who had 
been after megalo-partridges, did not return till very late, and 
when the anxiety which this had excited was alleviated, the men 
were kept awake for a long time by mountain sickness. We could 
hear them moving about and sitting up to relieve the oppression 
on the chest, while others vomited, and there was a long succession 
of groans and complaints, the pass being treated to plenty of 
curses in Chinese and Turkish. 

Fortunately, Abdullah Ousta promises them that the next 
encampment shall be close to a river, with brushwood and even 


a little grass, so that they may regain their strength, with which 
their courage also will return. 

November 27. — We start with a north- west wind, which makes 
the 23° of frost very hard to endure, and at night the minimum 
was just helow zero. More than one of our men has to breathe 
on to his hands while handling the ropes, or even a compass or the 
photographic apparatus. But we begin to descend, and the 
mountain sickness decreases, the men feeling their heads steadier 
on their shoulders, and the singing in the ears being less accen- 
tuated. The difference in altitude of a few hundred yards suffices 
to restore those who have been amiss, and when we are protected 
from the wind between the sides of the ravine a sensation of 
relief is experienced. 

After five hours' march we arrived by the small pass of the Obo 
(Dawan Island), ou the banks of the Djahan Saï, the sides of 
which have a fringe of ice, though in the middle of the stream the 
water flows along rapid, clear, and drinkable. 

We had traversed hillocks of sand and of soil where the 
camels found it no difficult matter to plant their feet. One might 
imagine that there is in this region a reserve of vegetable soil 
destined to cover the unfertile surfaces of our planet with a 
stratum of the black earth in which food-giving grain does 
so well. 

The traces of animal life are frequent just here, the large hoof 
of the Jcoulan being seen in many places near the river, as well 
as the forked foot of the arkar, while several Jmikou-iamans had 
been by the site of our camp a few minutes before our arrival. 
The camels go along with their eyes fixed on the ground ; 
now and again they inspect the mountain and its rocks. 
Abdullah declares that we are about to come upon abundance of 
game, and when asked about the route, he says that further on 
the stones are not so frequent, and that the ground is nearly 
everywhere soft. We take care not to speak to him of the Kizil 


Sou and the southern route, as we must make it our business to 
discover it for ourselves. 

December 28. — While the evening meal is being cooked, the 
saddles and clothes are cleaned, and Rachmed makes a ramrod out 
of the branch of a tree. Parpa sews his boots, made of wilcl-camel 
skin, with antelope tendons, which he softens by dipping them 
in his teacup. The horses and camels are allowed to roam about, 
and the dogs snarl and fight over the sheep's entrails. 

A sumptuous feast is being got ready. The rice is washed for 
the palao which will follow the caverdalc, this dish, which comes 
first, consisting of bits fried in mutton-fat. The caverdalc is 
not allowed to simmer long in the pot, and it is eaten while 
only half-cooked. Little Abdullah, who has not the patience 
to wait for the palao, obtains, by dint of entreaties, a shoulder 
out of which only part of the bone has been taken, and 
toasts it before the fire, tearing at it with his teeth and 
lingers, and exclaiming, " Here is a foretaste of Thibet and its 
fare." A light is thrown on to the pot by means of the branch 
of a tree which has been rubbed with mutton-fat to make it 
answer as a torch. The repast being ready, the Ivhotanlis join 
our men, and there is quite a family party round the boxes 
which keep off the north-west wind. No one fails to do justice 
to the banquet, and Bachmed sarcastically observes that we shall 
not run short of warriors to fight battles of this kind. The fire 
lights up the tanned countenances and white teeth of the men as 
they dip their hands into the bowls and scoop up pieces of rice, 
which they jerk into their mouths. They eat till they are full, 
and the fragments, which are very considerable, are taken to the 
Lobis by the youngest; the arrival of the cooking pot, still half- 
full, bringing a smile of contentment to the faces of these savages. 
We all appreciate the agreeable character of this evening, which 
obliterates the recollection of the fatigues and disappointments 
of the previous days. We even have some music, Tokta having 



brought Avith him his instrument — his Allah-rabob, as he calls it. 
This is because the rabob, having only three strings, cannot be 
compared to the great rabob of India ; it only serves to play 


simple pieces, such as invocations to Allah, whence the Allah- 
rabob. The Dungan, whom the prospect of watering his camels 
has made amiable, keeps open house, and offers his Chinese 
dough all round. Although the men have barely finished a 
copious repast, some of them accept the offer, and seem none the 
worse for this second meal when they return to the camp fire and 
go off to sleep. Most of them sleep without undressing, merely 
lifting their arms out of the wide sleeves of their pelisse. The 
Lobis undress and sleep quite naked, curled up among their clothes, 
wherein they double themselves up, after having first warmed 
them in front of the fire to dry them and to drive away the 


vermin. Tkey do not shelter themselves from the wind behind 
their bundles, but behind the fires, so that the wind blows the 
heat of the flame on to them. This is the best plan when in the 
open air. 

December 3. — We have reached Ouzoun Tchor (the great salt- 
pit) by way of Pashalik. Kara Sbote, and Mandalik. These names 
do not signify that we met any habitations or human beings, for 
we have passed through an undulating desert, with a north-west 
wind blowing up a great deal of dust. We have followed pretty 
closely the route taken by Carey, but without finding any water at 
points where he, in the month of May, had seen rivulets running, 
whereas we have had to cany bags of ice with us. We intend to 
halt near the great salt-pit, for we want some salt. Yesterday we 
had a strong hurricane from the north-west, with twenty-seven 
degrees of frost. The minimum of the night was sixteen degrees 
below zero ; so that there can be no mistake about winter being 
upon us. In the morning the wind falls, and the sun comes out 
in full splendour, the temperature rising to fifty-nine degrees, 
though in the shade it is four degrees below zero. (Time, 
9 a.m.) 

While the men were off to shoot, I went to see what I could 
discover, with my eyes never off the ground. To the south of our 
camp rises a very bare, deeply-scored, and crumbling mountain, 
the slopes of which slip away as the foot, sinking into the sand, 
rests upon the surface, breaking away like sugar. This moun- 
tain is shedding its sand into the plain and gradually driving 
back the vegetation, while in the large basin to the east spreads 
the vast yellowish-green surface of the Ouzoun Tchor, marbled 
with streaks of salt. In the more remote distance, between the 
east and the south, a small lake glitters, reflecting the hills which 
overshadow it, and close to its shores are some Jcoidans browsing, 
though they soon make off in great alarm. Beyond the basin in 
which the salt-pit is situated a steppe rises gradually towards 


other mountains, the summits of which are hidden in the mist. 
This chain diminishes in altitude northward, and seems to be 
connected with other jagged mountains which close the horizon 
to the west. 

On getting back to the camp, I found that Prince Henry had 
killed a fine male Jfoulan, this being his first, and that two men 
had gone off to cut up the beast and bring back his skin, with a 
little of the flesh. 

December 4. — The ni^ht minimum has been 20° below zero, 
but the north-west breeze is, fortunately, very slight. We had 
to wait until the sun had got the cold out of our men, and had 
melted the frozen ropes, before we could prepare for a start. 
While we were drinking our tea Timour made an exclamation, 
and when I brought my glass to bear in the direction of the 
brushwood where I was yesterday, I could clearly distinguish, 
two or three donkeys and some men armed with guns. All 
at once they disappeared, and then, as a thin column of smoke 
curled up into the air, we saw that they were halting to cook their 

We at once sent Abdullah, who supposed them to be Lobis, 
to talk with them, but we let Eachmed follow him at once, 
so that he might not set the new comers against us, and prevent 
us from obtaining information. Soon afterwards four men came 
to our camp, the two oldest offering as presents three foxes' skins 
and one wolf skin. They were somewhat intimidated by our 
presence, though, our men crowded round them and pressed their 
hands, inviting them to come near the fire. But they did not 
venture to cross their legs, and were evidently very ill at ease. : 

These men are veritable savages ; their clothing, which is of 
frieze or sheepskin, is all in tatters, their faces are sunken and 
their bodies wasted by privations and long marches, while their 
hands look like veritable claws. They are small and thick-set, 
with the physiognomy of Turco-Mongolians, and they might be 


taken for Turkomans, with their long noses and thick nostrils, 
their prominent cheek-bones, and small brown eyes. 

We treat them hospitably, and give them cooked meat, tea, 
bread, and sugar. They put away the meat, drink the tea, and 
scarcely touch the sugar, after they have just licked it. B&t they 
break the bread with great care, and eat it solemnly, as if it was 
food which would do honour to their bodies. Gradually their 
figures expand, and they seem to be well content. One of them, 
whom we have christened " the Tzigane," on account of his 
bushy black beard, leans over to his neighbour and mumbles a word 
with a smile. They exchange a look which can only be interpreted 
into surprise at being so kindly treated. Whether they think well 
of us for our reception of them, or are inclined to despise us for 
our weakness, it is impossible to say ; for in the desert men are 
not disposed to be very tender to one another, and first com- 
munications are rarely of a friendly character. 

These savages are, perhaps, stupefied at the good nature of 
the strangers, who, being better armed and stronger than them- 
selves, treat them kindly, offer them a good price for their skins, 
and promise them some food for their journey to the Lob Nor, 
when it would have been so easy to despoil them. So we take 
advantage of their being well disposed to question them. 

" Have you seen the son of your friend Abdullah Ousta ? " we 

il Yes," replies one; "he has not found much gold, but he 
is shooting. He is in good health." 

" Have you seen any traces of wild camels? " 

" No, though we know that they roam at times through this 

" Do you know the roads ? " 

" Abdullah knows them better than we do ; he is a grey 

" You have not seen any Kalmucks? " 


" No, not one. They live beyond the Tcbimène Tagh, winch 
is the frontier we have mutually agreed upon. We do not go 
beyond it on our shooting expeditions." 

It is impossible to extract any further information from them, 
and wi? begin to think that they have nothing to keep back, and 
so we thank them, and our men give them many commissions for 
Tcharkalik. Tokta sends a message to his little boy, and Timour 
to his wife, whom he exhorts to be patient and not to desert his 
home. Iça, who sends a message to the son of his master, the 
AJcsalcal, has the bad habit of smoking haschisch, and 
Eachmed had accordingly nicknamed him Bangi (which means 
smoker of haschisch). This annoyed him so much that he came 
to complain to me, but I reasoned with him and got him to see 
that he deserved the appellation. So I advised him not to smoke 
any more, and then he would be treated as a good Mussulman, 
and I would make him a present. One fine morning he had 
broken his haschisch pipe, and as he had a little bang left in 
his bag, he availed himself of the visit of these men to send it to 
his friends, with the following message : — " You will do well 
not to smoke any more bang, but if you do, smoke this which 
Iça sends you, and pray to Allah that our journey may be 

Thereupon the men went off, and after Eachmed had re- 
gretted not giving them a bigger piece of sugar, the tents were 
quickly struck, and in an hour and a quarter we reached the 
extremity of the Ouzoun Tchor, which is not frozen over, and on 
the banks of which is a thick layer of salt. We wound round 
the end of the lake, following a rather narrow slope near the 
mountain, leading to a defile which is called the "Neck of the 
Ouzoun Tchor" {Ouzoun Tchornin Bo'ini). Here we came upon 
traces' of camels, but whether wild or domesticated it is impossible 
to say. As we were riding quickly on, exclamations arose : 
"Look, there are camels ! " "No ! yaks, I tell you." And, sure 


enough, about five miles to the east was a caravan with animals 
bearing loads and accompanied by horsemen. We concluded 
from the steady and regular march that this was a caravan of 
camels, and at once ordered Abdullah and Akoun, our China- 
man, to overtake the travellers, whom we presumed 3 to be 
pilgrims in the suite of the Khan of the Torgots, who had 
recently gone through the Lob Nor. As they were trying to catch 
up the pilgrims we entered the defile of the Ouzoun Tchor, which 
narrows as one gets higher up. The caravan had just been 
through it, and the footprints left by their camels prove that 
camels can go a long way. We also found traces of the Lobi 
chasseurs, and the examination of the soil caused us to lose a little 
time and enabled our Lobis to get ahead of us. They had not 
followed the route of the pilgrims, whose traces were along a very 
easy path, through the hills to the right of the defile. 

Our inclination was first of all to make the advance guard turn 
back and to take this new route. But Abdullah Ousta dissuaded 
us, declaring that the route was very bad. We did not believe 
him, but followed his advice, pending the return of the two men 
we had sent on ahead, knowing that it would not be difficult for 
us to find the road again. 

The defile terminates in a pass, from which we descended by a 
plateau called Tchimène, this being the beginning of the chain 
of that name, of which we catch a glimpse to the south in the mist. 
We trotted along an excellent road over a bare sandy tableland, 
then descending towards the plain of Tchimène along some 
spurs of hills. Suddenly two men, mounted on camels, appeared 
from behind a ridge just within range of our glasses. They were 
evidently frightened at the sight of us, for they set off at a slow 
trot, which is a dangerous pace for beasts on high ground. Our 
idea was that these travellers were rejoining the caravan which we 
had seen, and Dedeken, who speaks a little Mongolian, set out in 
their pursuit at full speed. He caught them up, and questioned 


them, and returned quickly to tell us Avhat he had gathered. They 
were two Torgots belonging, as we thought, to the caravan, on 
their way back from Thibet, where they had been to worship the 
Lama at Lhassa. As they were short of meat, they had gone off 
in searfth of game, and had killed a yak, which they then cut up, 
carrying off the best pieces for their comrades — and it was these 
quarters of meat which we had seen swaying as they hung from 
their saddle-bows. The} r had asked Dedeken where we were 
going, and he had prudently replied that our intention was to go 
hunting eastwards, in the direction of Se-tchouen. These various 
meetings supply food for thought, and give us the hope that 
we have hit, if not our ideal road to the south, at all events a 
good one, for here are pilgrims who have followed it on camels — 
camels, too, which are still capable of trotting. Farther on 
there must be inhabitants, for these hunters told Dedeken that 
within half a day's march live some Kalmucks. 

These uplands form a glorious picture, but at the bottom of 
the pass, on the right, Timour points out to us three stones 
supporting a pole which is planted on the spot where lies the 
body of one who, when out hunting, had died on the road. A 
barely perceptible path to the lowly tomb has been made b}>- the 
feet of the few Mussulmans who go there to pray for one of 
their comrades. 

From the eastward direction which Abdullah Ousta makes us 
follow, it is evident that he means to take us to Tchong-iar, and 
thence to the Tsaïdam. To-morrow we will modify our line of 

We camp on a sort of terrace in the midst of some scrub 
and brushwood, and the night being dark, and our camels not 
having arrived, we set fire to a thicket, and the flames bursting 
forth show our whereabouts as a lighthouse does the harbour. 
Abdullah and our Chinamen, the last to arrive, told us they had 
counted twenty-one camels carrying chests protected by skins. 


They recognised these camels as belonging to the Kalmuck race ; 
and they had evidently, too, come a considerable distance, for 
they were lean, and their harness was much worn, while the covering 
of their loads bore signs of bad weather. Their feet, however, 
were neither cracked nor barked excessively, so it was plain that 
the road had not been a stony one. The only rider in the 
caravan was a veiled man, a lama with a grey moustache, who 
deigned to speak to them from the back of his camel, though 
unwilling to give them any information. He assured them that 
he was coming back from the Tsaïdam, from a place called 
Timourlik, and was on his way to Abdallah. He would not 
acknowledge that he was from Thibet, but asked them point 
blank, "Are you in the service of the Russians? " 

" No," they answered. 

" We know that some Russians are anxious to penetrate as 
far as Lhassa, but they have not received permission to do so. 
If }^ou are these Russians, don't forget that." 

"We are in the service of some Frenchmen who have not the 
least desire to enter Thibet." 

" What have they come here to do ? " 

" Hunt." 

At this reply the lama lowered his veil and said not another 
word. His servants gave out that he was " a living Buddha," 

We summoned the hunters of Lob and Tcharkalik, and 
asked whether they know the road which this caravan had 
followed. After much pressure, we wrung an avowal from old 
Abdullah Ousta. " Twenty-five years ago," he said, " I heard 
that some Kalmucks had returned from Thibet by a more direct 
and easier road than that from the Tsaïdam. That's all I 

Thereupon the old hunter asked permission for himself and 
his men to leave us. " The cold," he says, " is becoming more 
and more unendurable, daily our homes are farther off, and 

■■■•'; ,■ 









provisions are diminishing." I promised an answer next 
morning, but this very night Rachmed informed him that we 
would let them go as soon as we had recovered the track of the 
caravan, and that they should be richly rewarded, for we were 
very wftll satisfied with them. We thus secured their assistance 
in hitting upon the right track. 

They replied that they were happy to have met us, and their 
old chief swore that all would serve us faithfully to their last 
breath. Up to a late hour they kept up a whispered conversa- 
tion round their fires. In spite of all their loud protestations I 
know they would desert us at the very first opportunity, but we 
can very well do without them. 

This 4th of December will be a white-letter day in our travels. 
What a coincidence ! Just at the decisive moment, just at the 
spot where the road separates, we have providentially met some 
pilgrims on their way back from Lhassa. It is too fortunate, 
and we must make the best of so valuable a piece of information. 
To-morrow we will again track the two yak hunters, and see 
where their traces lead. 

December 5. — We set out in a south-westerly direction, leav- 
ing the Tsaïdam on our left. Towards the east the vast plain, 
wrapped in what looks like smoke, attracts our attention. At 
first we imagine there must be an encampment there, but this 
vapour unfolds in spirals just as the smoke does from the engine 
of a train, and we conclude that a herd of wild beasts is galloping 
over the soft ground. We are in a kind of dusty plain; after 
walking for five hours we enter a river-bed where a torrent 
has brought down some roots and branches, which we carefully 
collect. They will serve to melt the ice which we have brought 
with us, for since the 20th of November we have had no water 
and have no idea when we shall get an}^ ; we are short, too, of 

December 6. — We continue our south-westerly course, eager to 


arrive at the foot of the hills towards which lead the tracks of 
the pilgrim hunters, and we ask Abdullah Ousta if he knows the 
next encampment. He says he knows it by hearsay, and that 
it is good; it is called Bagh Tokai, which means " Garden of 

When we approach Bagh Tokai, we find that the name of 
garden is not too grand a one. We are near a fresh- water 
river, as we gather from some bits of ice that sparkle in the dry 
bed of one of its affluents. The stream, on reaching the low 
grounds of the plain, has left behind it some large pools, frozen 
of course, and formed an endless number of arms ; at the edge of 
the channel we can see the water running. The Kalmucks have 
camped here, and we soon see the prints of their camels on the 
ridges which they have scaled so as to avoid the ice on the river, 
while in the brushwood which here forms a thick plantation, we 
easily recognise the spot where they lit their fires. Besides 
these very recent traces, there are others much older, which 
Abdullah Ousta says are those of the Khan of the Kalmucks, 
who went to Lhassa by this road before the frost had set in, for 
the feet of the laden camels had sunk deeply into the soft ground, 
and then the frost preserved intact the traces of the first passage 
of the caravan. 

At night we hold a council of war, questioning our hunters 
and our friends, and insisting that they undoubtedly knew the 
place already. Old Abdullah denies that he has ever set foot at 
Bagh Tokai ; but, driven to extremities, and as the result, perhaps, 
of a talk with Timour, he tells us that the latter can give us 
some information, since he knows much more about it. The old 
hunter is unwilling to unsay his words, for fear he should be 
punished for his untruthfulness, but, to pacify us, he has charged 
Timour to tell us about the place. So the latter begins : — 
" Parpa can tell you, as well as I can, that we are now on 
the road to the pass of Amban Ashkan, for he has been 


here with two Europeans.* I believe that there is, beyond that 
pass, a road into Thibet. This is how I discovered it just eleven 
years ago." (Eachmed pours Timour out a cup of tea, and 
hands him a lump of sugar.) " It was the year that Badoulet 
(Yakoo*b-Beg) was. poisoned by those cursed Chinamen. I was 
hereabouts with some bold companions, on our way to Bokalik 
to seek for gold, when we came across a caravan returning froni 
Lhassa, consisting of Kalmucks who were accompanying the 
mother of the present khan. They had camels and yaks. After 
following their road back as far as Amban Ashkan Dawan we 
saw with our own eyes that their tracks led southwards. That 
is how we found out this route, which the Kalmucks keep secret, 
for they only speak of that of the Tsaïdam." 

I have no idea of reproaching Timour, for I am too pleased. 

"Does this road go to the south, once you have crossed the 
Amban Ashkan Dawan ? Answer frankly, Timour." 

" Yes, it does ; straight to the south. At least, the tracks 
disappeared in that direction." 

Decidedly we have hit the southern route so long sought for. 
The only thing now is not to lose it. 

Our original idea was to go to Tonquin via Batang, crossing 
the Tsaïdam, if we could strike the road which, we had been told, 
starts from Kizil Sou. And now circumstances have dispensed 
with the need of our seeking- the Kizil Sou route. A caravan 
has gone and returned by the same road, and we will follow its 
track, and with due attention have every chance of recovering 
the trail, which must open out near Lhassa, towards which we 
will proceed as far as we can. Our beasts of burden are in good 
condition ; we have provisions for four or five months more, plenty 
of ammunition, and men in good health, so that there is very 
little imprudence in making the venture. If circumstances only 
prove favourable, we have every chance of success, and why 

* Carey and Dalgleisli. 


should we not go on with what we have so w r ell begun ? Such 
are the ideas that flit quickly through my mind, and prompt me 
to inform my comrades that we are going to spur due south so 
as to arrive at the Namtso, the " Heavenly Lake," near 
Lhassa. We shall certainly make some interesting discoveries, 
and once there, can think of Batang and Tonquin. 

My companion, Prince Henry of Orleans, knew or guessed 
that for some time I had been thinking of Thibet. Though we 
had never said anything precise on the subject, I felt that we 
should have no trouble about agreeing, and when I now tell him 
my thoughts, he becomes enthusiastic, and replies, " You will see 
we shall succeed, I am sure of it, and let us set out at once. 
You can rely upon me. What a grand idea ! I was certain you 
meant going to Thibet." Then I turned to Father Dedeken, who 
was coming up with his rifle over his shoulder. I had never 
mentioned to him the projects which I had in my mind, and he 
was now much surprised to hear them, for we shall not approach 
the direction in which he at first thought we were going, so he 
raised certain objections : — " We have no papers. What shall we 
do ? How are we to get out of the hands of the people of Thibet, 
who act under the direction of the Chinese? " 

" Once there we shall see what to do," I replied. " But we 
are not yet in their hands." 

After a moment's reflection he said, " I will go where you 
like, at once." 

I called Bachmed, who came to our tent in which we were 
all three having our tea, and having knelt down, as is his wont, 
near the entrance, asked the news. 

" We are going southward," said I. " We shall follow the 
traces of the Kalmucks as long as they are distinguishable, and if 
we lose them through our own fault, we will each wear, for the rest 
of our natural lives, a fool's cap. What do you think of my 
idea ? " 


"Master," lie replied, "you are never happy unless you are 
seeking fresh roads. Though it was of China that you spoke to 
me before we set out, I knew it was of Thibet that you were 
thinking. Now all we have to do is to keep our eyes well open, 
and sptire our animals. We shall get out of the difficulty all 

We next took into our confidence little Abdullah, who was by 
no means cheered by the news, though he did not dare to make 
any objection. As to the brave Tundja, also surnamed Akoun, 
Dedeken's Chinaman, he maliciously remarked that he was well 
acquainted with the cardinal points, and knew we were not 
marching towards Urumtsi, nor yet towards Sinin-Fou, as we 
had promised him at first, but he would follow his master. 

I thereupon urged our three faithful followers not to noise our 
conversation abroad, and to try and persuade the four Dungans 
and the men of Tcharkalik that we meant to go hunting towards 
the south, with the firm intention, once the hunt is over, of making 
our way eastwards, that is to say, in the direction of Bokalik, the 
gold district. 

Before we retire for the night, Abdullah Ousta's men come 
to inform us that they cannot go any farther ; that twice already 
they have wanted to return, but we had prevented them; that 
now they really wish to leave us, for they are unacquainted with 
the road to the Amban Ashkan Dawan. We reply that Parpa, 
the man who has been with Carey and Dalgleish, and Timour, 
the goldseeker, will serve us as guides, and that they themselves 
are perfectly capable of retracing their own steps. Then we 
promise them a handsome reward if they will consent to trans- 
port our baggage as far as the other end of the pass, while, at 
the same time, we guarantee them payment of a very different 
kind in case of their refusal. The}'' consent accordingly to accom- 
pany us so far, on my promising faithfully not to drag them on 
any farther. 



As to the Dungan camel-driver, he is far from being 
pleased to learn that we are not going to make for the Tsaïdam, 
while his servant, honest Niaz, comes to our men's tent in a 
disconsolate mood, complaining bitterly of. his master, and ex- 
claiming — " What a wicked, wicked man ! For the last fortnight 


"- M...... J. h. - --■* 

AT EAGH TOKAI (p. 150). 

he has been just bearable, but since yesterda}^ evening his bad 
temper has again shown itself. He is constantly swearing at me, 
covering me with insults, while he reproaches me for the bread I 
eat. This morning he loaded his own ass, but so badly that to- 
night the animal lias a sore on its back, and then he goes on at 
me for it, as if I had not enough to do in looking after his 
camels ! And all because we are going southward, as if it were 
my fault." And Niaz sighed. "Ah!" he went on; "he says 
that he wants to be off, to return to Tcharkalik and abandon his 
camels. Allah grant that he may ! I will gladly stop with 


you, and I won't even claim the wages which he promised me, 
though he has never paid me more than a quarter of them." 

Niaz begged Dedeken and Abdullah to go to the ill-tempered 
Dungan, who invited them to partake of a little dough, evi- 
dently*with the intention of questioning them. Niaz followed 
them as they went, but very slowly, and muttering to himself, 
"Is it my fault that we are going south ? " 

Dedeken soon returned, and amused us by the account of his 
interview with the Dungan. The latter received them with 
unheard-of politeness, had offered them cakes, obsequiously handed 
them chop-sticks, and with every appearance of the keenest in- 
terest had asked after their health. Then, the meal over, he 
asked them, " Where are we going now? '' 

" We don't know,'' replied Dedeken. 

"Ah! ah!" prowled the Duneran in his boots. "Ah! ah! 
I really cannot understand your answer in the very least. How 
can I believe that ' great men,' men who are learned, know 
how to read, write, consult books, examine stars, have no idea 
where they are going ? Ah ! ah ! Who could make anything 
out of what you say ? Is it true that you do not know where 
we are going ? " 

" We know nothing about it." 

" The new year is approaching. Shall we be in any decent 
place so as to keep it properly ? " 

" Doubtless," interrupted the candid Niaz, who had failed to 
grasp his master's idea; "we shall doubtless be at some spot, 
for are we not always somewhere ? " 

When Dedeken and Abdullah had gone, the Dungan in- 
vited our Chinaman to his table, and renewed his questions — 
" Where are we going ?" he asked. 

" Towards Europe," replied Akoun, who has no love for him. 
" Don't you see that we are making straight for it ? " 

The Dungan, unable to solve the riddle, sobbed bitterly. 


" They Lave nonplussed us completely," lie said ; " all that 
remains for me to do is to pray to Allah to spare my life. 
What are the} r going to do southwards ? What astonishing 
ideas these Europeans have !" To give vent to his wrath, he 
abuses Kiaz : "Idiot, cur! you don't even know how to" saddle 
a donkey. You don't deserve to eat my meal. What did you 
put that cup here for ? And what is that cord doing there ? And 
those saddles, who put them away ? . . ." 

And Niaz, as soon as he can, makes his escape to our men, 
repeating, " I am lost. There is his old temper coming out 




At Moula Kourghan — More Mountain Sickness— A Chinaman's Logic — Crossing the Amban 
Ashkan Da wan — The Lake which does not Freeze — A Parting : " Forward to the High- 
lands ! " — The Caravan on Ice — Inquisitive Koulans — Orongo Antelopes: their Strength 
and Courage — Camp de la Miséricorde — Niaz Sick Unto Death — Timour Missing : — His 
Return — Remedy for Mountain Sickness — Rachmed Lost and Found— Naming a Volcano 
— Chinese Heartlessness — Death and Burial of Niaz — Another A T olcano named — A 
Hurricane — Keeping the New Year. 

December 7. — To-day, without encountering any difficulty, 
we crossed the frozen pools formed by the river, which appears to 
descend from the south-east ; then we traversed a dusty plain as 
far as Balgoun Louk, where we encamped in the brush. The 
stage was a short one, about seven miles, and we take advantage 
of a fine day to make ready a Tcoulan skin, and to repair all the 
things which stand in need of mending. We have ice within 
reach, and as we are told that there is no brushwood farther on, 
we prepare apalao for the last time, and several fires are lighted. 
In future, our only fuel will be the droppings of the yaks. 

December 8. — We have come through the desert to Moula 
Kourghan, which is the name of a ferry over the river. Beyond 
this ferry the mountains open ouû a little ; and to the south-east 
is visible a group composed of two peaks connected by a ridge, 
hollow in the centre, whence the name of Moula Kourghan, which 
our men translate by " The Camel's Abandoned Saddle." Before 
the evening mist closed in the horizon, we could see to the south 
the depression in the chain of mountains which, as we are told, 
indicates the road to Amban Ashkan Dawan. 

From the top of the hill which I have climbed, partly for the 
view, partly in pursuit of some small hares which have an ex- 
cellent flavour, I can see our caravan on its way. Presently it 
takes shelter from the north-west wind in a sort of ravine. The 


beasts are "unloaded, and the bales laid out in a trice, while the 
camels, the horses, and the donkeys go off in quest of a mouthful 
of grass. The sheep are sent away in the care of a watchman, for 
fear of the wolves. 

December 9. — We encamp upon the northern slope of the pass, 
which we reached by an easy ascent, though much incommoded 
by a south-westerly wind. 

Not far from our camp is a path going west, which is said to 
be that of the gold-seekers, and we are told that it would not 
take more than ten or twelve days to reach Tcherchène, and 
that, about half-way, there is a branch road towards Kia. This 
route is well known to the Khotanlis ; and Timour, who has 
been aloug it before, says it is a good one, passing up and 
down hills, the soil of which is soft to the tread. Timour, who 
admits that he once spent several days beyond the pass, but with- 
out penetrating into the mountains of the south, adds : " This 
route is often used, as in the land of Khotan the custom is 
to pay the tax in gold ; the Chinese confer upon the mountaineers 
of the extreme frontier the privilege of working the gold mines, 
which they know exist in the neighbourhood of Bokalik, but 
they exact a tribute, payable in gold dust or nuggets. This is 
paid either once a month, or once a year, and that is why the 
peoples of the districts of Kia and Tcherchène are in the habit 
of going in search of gold." 

Traces of the Kalmucks are clearly visible in a ravine, but they 
can scarcely be detected upon the frozen ground, and it is necessary 
to keep our eyes wide open if we are not to lose their track. 
We notice that in several cases their caravans have been broken 
up into sections, but for what reason we cannot discover. 

We have plenty to shoot at to-day, there being enough game 
to provide sport for a whole army of sportsmen. First of all, on 
the slope of the mountain, there is a large herd of arJcars, brows- 
ing under the watchful eye of some magnificent male animals of 



that species. Then there are some Jcoidans, with their quiet, not 
to say stupid look ; while partridges are calling to one another 
in the gorges ; and hares, sitting behind stones, leap off alarmed 
by our dogs, or sit in their forms and let themselves be killed. 


They trust to the colour of their fur, which confounds itself with 
that of the soil ; or, perhaps it should rather be said, they are 
accustomed to immunity from the men who visit these parts, and 
their acquaintance with Europeans is made by means of powder 
and shot. The Jcoulans are wilder, and as to the arJcars, they 
make off at once. 

But if the sportsman has reasons for rejoicing, he has also 
cause for annoyance, for the altitude reminds him at each step 
that he is mortal, and that it is idle to hurry, this being the 


exclusive privilege of the game he seeks to kill. He can only 
succeed by ruse, for he must glide along, stop and take breath. 
The least hurry accelerates the action of his heart, and when he 
puts his gun up he finds it impossible to take straight aim. We 
have not yet seen any wild yaks, and when we are toïd that 
three or four of these animals are quietly feeding not far from 
the camp, the sporting members of our party hurry off, the expe- 
dition terminating in a roar of laughter when it is found that 
these are tame yaks, with rings through their noses, which the 
Kalmucks have left behind. They had encamped on a terrace 
above the spot where we are, and from the number of fires and 
the heaps of droppings, we conclude that the caravan we met 
could only have been a fraction of a large band of pilgrims. 

Mountain sickness is still prevalent, and several of our men 
complain of it. This return of headache and singing of the 
ears may be attributed to the south-west wind which has been 
blowing during the day. Nothing is more fatiguing than the 
wind in one's face, when one has to open the mouth in climbing 
the hills. 

Old Abdullah has killed a splendid koulan with one bullet 
from his little gun, and has brought back the skin and several 
pieces of flesh. But he is tired and has pains in his head, to 
relieve which he makes an incision in the middle of the forehead, 
just at the roots of the hair, and his companion bleeds him with 
the point of a knife. He does the same by his companion, and 
both of them declare that they are all the better for it. This is 
the remedy which the Lob shooting and hunting men employ 
against mountain sickness. A few days ago, Abdullah had a pain 
in the palm of the hand, and he cured this by rubbing it Avith 
the e3 r e of a sheep mixed with fat, and by binding it up in this as a 
plaster during two or three days. Several of our men have had 
carbuncles, caused by the action of the cold upon sores made in 
handling the ropes, one curing himself by a plaster made out of 


the skin of a centipede. Portions of animals' bodies are often 
used in this region as remedies, and this is not astonishing, seeing 
that simples are scarce and that animals abound. 

While on this subject, let me give an instance of what logic 
can effect in the narrow brain of a Chinaman. At Tcharkalik, 
Akoun, the servant of Father Dedeken, fell ill on the very day 
that he had for the first time donned a fine cap made of fox-skin, 
and to measure. He had been seized with violent pains in the 
head, and an " inflammation of the lymphatic subcutaneous 
glands of the neck " had been set up. He had not remarked that 
on the day he had donned this head-dress, of which he was 
at first very proud, a severe tempest had burst over us, coming 
from the Lob Nor, and that he had caught cold. Starting with the 
assumption that his cap, which had kept him warm, had made 
him ill, he had concluded that the cold would do him good, and 
so he travelled, in the worst of weather, with nothing but a thin 
cap on his head. The result, as may be supposed, was that 
the mischief increased, the inflammation soon spreading to the 
cheek and the ear. As soon as I saw what was the matter, I 
advised him to wrap up his head, and finding that he did not do 
so — the obstinacy and pride of a Chinaman being immeasurable — 
I told him that he would get a good flogging if he did not take 
proper care of himself, and handed him over to the care of Eachmed. 
The latter pushed the fur cap well over his ears, and applied to 
the swollen place a plaster composed of pieces of mutton fat fried 
in the pan and covered with some chopped onion, which had also 
been put into the pan. In five or six days the swelling went 
down, the Chinaman began to eat, his headache disappeared, and 
he soon got well, despite the fatigues of the inarch, and the cold 
and wind. His confidence in Rachmed was, for the future, 

December 11. — The passage of the Amban Ashkan Dawan 
was effected without much difficulty. The ascent is not so very 


steep, the point at which it terminates being marked by an obo. 
Hares and partridges abound, but there is no sign of big game. 
From time to time we perceive ice in the gorges, and thin lines of 
salt run down the sides where before the water trickled. 

Beyond the obo, the eye ranges over a vast open space shut 
in by mountains which are lost in the mist. The descent is easy, 
and the effect of a mirage causes us to see in the plain at our feet 
islands with the outlines of stalactites. After some time we can 
distinguish fragments of ice and mirrors of salt, which have pro- 
duced this illusion, and on making a bend, we see in the south-west 
a lake, which glitters so that one cannot tell whether its surface is 
ice or water. Prjevalsky named it the " lake which does not 
freeze." The southern slope of the pass is the more picturesque 
of the two, the northern one having the uniformity of the steppe, 
whereas here the mountain is lacerated hy torrents, which have 
eaten out ravines, accumulated large stones, and so formed deltas 
and enlarged the route we are following. The chain of mountains 
winds along in the same direction as the valley, its ridges bristling 
with ragged rocks and its sides streaked with dark furrows, the 
blocks of porphyry contrasting with the dark background of sand- 

Down in the bottom, our path lies over a long stretch of sand, 
and we forget the landscape for a moment in our search for traces 
of the Mongols which the wind and the storms have effaced. None 
the less, we lift up our eyes to look at the strange shapes of the 
mountain where it trends down to the plain, the crumbling sand- 
stone shaping out into forms resembling those of animated beings 
and monsters of Chinese art, with gaping grinning mouths. 

We pitch our camp on the banks of a river, and right on the 
track of the Mongols, which we had re-discovered on the plain 
of salt. There is very little grass, and a complete absence of 
brushwood, with a wind blowing off the lake, so we should be 
better off elsewhere. But the traces of the Mongols are very 


distinct, extending straight to the south, and this is all we 
think of. 

Before emerging from the pass, Timour points out to us the 
Bokalik route, leading straight eastward. 

Wffen we turn in, there is a bitterly cold wind from the 

December 12. — The wind is still blowing, the minimum tem- 
perature of the night having been 18 Q below zero. Our people 
appear to be rather sleepy, and not in the best of spirits. The 
men are crouching and bent back upon themselves, wrapped up in 
their sheepskins and with their backs set against the wind. I 
have to shake them up a bit or they would fall into a state of 
lethargy; and their attitudes indicate that they have had pretty 
well enough of it. The Lobis alone are at all active, and they 
are getting ready to return. The others are pensive, and are evi- 
dently saying to one another that this is bad sort of weather for 
penetrating into the mountains without guides. The Dungan, 
while mumbling prayers, calculates that he would be much better 
off at Kourla, and inwardly curses the Europeans who act like 
madmen and not with the good sense of the Chinese. Little 
Abdullah, it is clear, would much , prefer being seated before the 
fire at Djarkent amusing himself by cracking pistachio nuts on 
a stone. Parpa has a gloomy look, and Timour and lea, our 
two best men, are thoughtful and undecided. Rachmed, old 
[match, and the obstinate Akoun, are the only ones who wear 
their everyday look. The others avoid looking me straight in 
the face ; and even the Lobis are ill at ease, for they are afraid 
we shall not keep our promise and let them go after we have 
got over the pass. 

It is necessary to allot work to each man, for we are going to 
halt to-day, so one is transformed into a tailor, another into 
a saddler, a third into a shoemaker. The Lobis are told 
that they will be free to start to-morrow. They will be paid 


this evening, but they must go up into the mountain and fetch us 
a last supply of brushwood. 

We make every possible effort to retain a friend of Timour— 
Tokta, the musician — but his j^ounger brother entreats him, with 
tears in his eyes, not to accompany us, and Tokta is not at a loss 
for good reasons: "My father is very old, he is quite infirm, 
lie is alone in the house with the }^oungest of his children. 
One of his sons came to help them, but the community 
drove him away because he came from Tcherchène, where there is 
an epidemic of smallpox. If I am not back soon, it may happen 
that our family will be expelled and our land seized. My presence 
is indispensable." 

We are sorry not to be able to keep Tokta, for he is a cou- 
rageous fellow, of exceptional vigour, indefatigable, and always 
cheerful. I have known for the last two days that his mind was 
made up, for, before beginning to climb the pass, he hid away 
his musical instrument carefully wrapped up, so as to pick 
it up on his return. If he had had the slightest intention of 
accompanying us he would not have parted from his inseparable 
Allah-râbob. To the best of our ability we recompensed this 
faithful follower, and in the evening paid the Lobi loaders and 
donkey-drivers, and purchased from them what little leather they 
possessed. We made them presents, and handed them letters for 
Europe and packages containing the collections we had made 
since leaving Tcharkalik. They promised to hand over these to 
the AksaJcal of the Russian subjects at Kourla, who would send 
them on to the Consul at Kuldja. — Let me add that these worthy 
fellows kept their word, and that not a single article entrusted to 
them was lost, the whole arriving safely in Paris. 

Timour and lea, having been questioned apart, promised to 
accompany us. Besides, they had given Parpa their word to 
follow him wherever he goes. Parpa also came to speak to us 
about his father. " He, like the father of Tokta, is incapable of 


looking after things alone, of seeing to our horses and donkeys. 
One of my brothers is with him, but he is an incorrigible gambler. 
I am afraid my father will run short of the necessaries of life 
before I return, as I can see that we have a long journey before 
us." He asks us for a rather large sum, which we advance with- 
out making any comment, and he says he shall hand the money 
to Abdullah Ousta. 

So the day passes, and at night-time there is a good deal of 
stir in the camp, the men holding confabulations with one 
another in an undertone. Eachmed comes to me in the tent and 
says he believes they intend making off in a body. I tell him not 
to go to sleep, but to watch Parpa if necessary, and to call me. 
I shall sleep with one eye open. 

December 13. — At daybreak I was astir, and learned that 
Eachmed had had to threaten Parpa. He had reminded him of 
the promise he made to accompany us until we allowed him to 
return. Eachmed told him that his services were more necessary 
than ever, that he was well paid, and that he could see by the 
presents made to the Lobis that it was to his interest to serve us 
well. Then Eachmed added that if he made off we should pursue 
him, and that we were quick enough on our legs to overtake him 
and shoot him. Eachmed repeated that if he served us well he 
would be handsomely rewarded, and Parpa, upon reflection, 
decided to follow us. 

I avoided intervening in the matter, and treated the men as if 
nothing had happened, distributing a few articles of confectionery 
and other objects, which they gave to the Lobis for their families. 
Small pocket mirrors were much appreciated, but these were only 
given to men who had specially distinguished themselves. 

We commence loading rather late, although it is our intention 
to make a long march, it being important to isolate the men who 
are in an undecided state. The Lobis and the men of Tcharkalik 
who are about to return lend a helping hand to their comrades, 


strapping 1 up the loads, bringing together the camels and saddling 
the horses — doing all they can, in short, before leaving them. 

When all is ready they sit round in a circle, the Lobis pouring 
out the tea themselves and handing round the cups ; then the} r get 
up, and our men load Abdullah Ousta with small packages, and 
charge him to give them to father, brother, wife, friend, or master, 
as the case may be. Then they stand motionless, old Abdullah 
recites a rjrayer, and they all exclaim, " Allah is great ! " lifting 
their hands to their beards as they do so. They kiss one another 
with tears in their eyes, and Timour commits his wife to the care 
of Tokta, who is to bid her " have patience, not leave the house, or 
go and live with someone else. I will come back with money for 
her " — a discourse which might have been addressed to Penelope., 

" Allah is great ! " exclaims Timour once more, and the others 
repeat it in chorus with him. They go down on their knees to 
us, and we shake them by the hand and thank them, begging them 
to retain kindly recollections of us. They wish us a safe journey, 
and commit us to the care of Allah. They are all of them more 
or less affected, and if the tears in the eyes of some of them do 
not trickle down, it is only because the cold congeals them. And 
so we part, our cry being " Forward to the highlands ! " But we 
none the less advance slowly, and Prince Henry, Father Dedeken, 
and myself bring up the rear to guard against possible desertions. 

First of all we walk on to the river, making for a hole in the 
ice which we have made with our hatchets. As we water our 
animals one after the other, which takes a good deal of time, we 
can see our companions disappearing through the pass, which 
presents, towards the east, a striking aspect with its succession of 

At a little distance from the improvised well in the ice, we 
see upon the banks the skeletons of camels which have been 
gnawed bare by the wolves. A little farther on we find emerg- 
ing from the ice the almost intact humps of camels, and upon 


closer examination we see that part of a caravan has been 
drowned here, including the camel-driver, one of whose arms 
is raised as if in an attitude of menace or of entreaty. Beasts 
and man had. been drowned one after the other, and this must 


have happened only a short time ago, when the ice was not thick 
enough to bear them. "We have nothing of the kind to fear, 
for the minimum of the night was 18° below zero. Let me add 
that the Kalmucks whom we met averted their gaze from the 
victims and passed over to the right. 

To-day begins the business of searching for the track, and how 
long it will last we cannot possibly tell. For my own part, i 
am afraid that as we get farther on we shall encounter real 
difficulties, for the wind be}^ond the Altyn Tagh often blows with 
great violence, and now that the Columbus Mountains (as 
Prjevalsky named them) have been crossed, it is easy to see, 

174 AC 11 OX S THIBET. 

by the aspect of the soil, and by the dust which obscures the 
horizon, that the wind will do all it can to make us lose our way, 
the traces of the road being already effaced where it is not- 

This first stage is very monotonous, for there is nothing but 
the salt and the desert, with a view of plains of tikhie. One or 
two Jcoulans watch us from a distance ; the east wind is slight, 
but piercingly cold, and our men tramp along with their heads 
down, regretting, no doubt, the past, and most certainly looking 
forward with dread to the future. Then, as we quit the plain, 
there appears a plateau at the base of which are enormous waves 
of sand moving eastward. Turning round, the chain of mountains 
beyond the glittering lake is barely visible, and it is with 
difficulty that we can make out the peaks enveloped in mist. 
Advancing southward, we make a considerable descent, following 
the clried-up bed of a river, going first up and then down, with 
the horizon bounded by the ridges of grey hills. Like a Hock 
of birds lost upon the waters, our band marches along without 
energy and without spirit. Is it because we no longer see the 
Columbus Mountains behind us, or because, owing to lack of 
light, the heavens weigh down upon us, crushing us, and isolating 
us from the rest of nature ? or is it the result of the separation 
effected this morning ? 

We encamp in a basin, as much as possible protected from 
the wind, and the men go off in different directions in search of 
roots and argol. The latter is very rare, but the UsJcbie, the 
faimjnr, and the iabshan suffice for us. These are the Turkish 
names of the tiny plants which creep along these inhospitable 
heights, and which incessant winds twist about and flatten. 

It was quite dark when the caravan reassembled. Eachmed 
had been told off to form the rear-guard when Prince Henry 
and myself took the lead to show the way. Here and there the 
traces were easy to find, but sometimes they vanished altogether, 


so this first evening was not a cheerful one, and our men, tired 
out by a stage which. I had intentionally made a long one, 
went to sleep without exchanging a word. The night was 
very bright, the wind having dropped and the cold being very 


December 13. — The air is very pure to-day, and we can dis- 
tinctly see the Columbus chain. The Amban Ashkan pass 
is just to the north of our camp, while to the south-east the 
Prjevalsky chain rears its snowy summits ; and almost due south 
two peaks of ice some distance apart are connected, as it were, 
by a snowy daïs of dazzling whiteness. Mountains, great and 
small, surround us. 

The air is calm, and we have no difficulty in loading the 
beasts, but no sooner are we on the march than the wind begins 
to blow from the west, and the atmosphere at once gets thick 
with dust, preventing us from seeing any distance or from 
thinking about anything else. We are compelled to march 
along, keeping our e}'es on the ground, right and left, for any 
traces of the Kalmucks, our road being on an undulating 
plateau, rising in a westerly direction, where it is bounded by 
a chain of sandhills. The traces lead off in several directions, 
near a valley, within which is a frozen pool, and our caravan 
goes southwards, halting in a depression of the soil, near a 
small stretch of ice just to the south of the Amban Ashkan 

Prince Henry and Father Dedeken have killed a fine yak, 
which they had to follow a long way, although he had several 
bullets in him. In future we shall have to shoot as little as 
possible, for there is nothing more fatiguing than the pursuit of 
game at such an altitude (14,700 feet). We are at the outset of 
our exploring, and no one is entitled to be intent upon anything 
but the discovery of the route ; he has no right to tire his horse, 
to display his energy, to exhaust his strength, or to take a step 



which does not contribute towards the success of the enterprise. 
This is a point upon which we all agree, while discussing the 

events of the day, and my companions 
have no difficulty in persuading them- 
selves that the art of travelling J may he 
denned, very paradoxically, yet very ac- 
curately, as "the art of resting." 

December 14. — The night has been 
a bright one, with no wind, and a min- 
imum of 13° below zero. This morning, 
the sky was overcast, and we tacked about 
so as to avoid the ravines and encamp on 
the other side of the plateau, at the 
source of a river which is now frozen 
maz. over. We pitched our tent where the 

Kalmuck pilgrims had theirs, and lighted 
our fires with the argol of their yaks. 

The river runs down between high banks westward, and the 
edges of the plateau we are leaving behind us are eaten away by 
the waters which invade it when the snow melts. All around us is 
grass of the late autumn, which seems green and delicious, and 
which our animals munch with evident satisfaction ; while the salt 
testifies to the presence of water during the rainy season. On the 
summit of the hills we can distinguish the forms of wild animals, 
but at too great a distance to tell what they are. 

We again observe that the pilgrims have left traces indicat- 
ing that they do not travel in a single caravan, but meet at 
certain points, as was the case near the pass of Amban Ashkan 
and again to-day near this river. This custom may be ex- 
plained in more ways than one. Some say — and this may be 
the case — that the pilgrims, not wishing to disclose the secret of 
this route, go intentionally in sections, so as not to trace any 
durable path which could serve as a guide to strangers. Others 


assert that they proceed by aouls or tribes, because they have 
good guides and are not afraid of losing their way, and 
because by travelling in separate groups they can feed their 
animals better. 

Frcfm our camp we can see the path which the pilgrims n 
followed, winding up along the hill which shuts off the route to 
the south, and curiosity impels me to climb this path and find out 
what awaits us to-morrow. Once on the top of the . ridge, I 
see again the two large white peaks, which are reached by a 
green surface, dotted here and there with sheets of ice on the 
bottoms, with hills all around. Judging by what we have 
seen up to the present, this is a spectacle we shall often have 
before us. The Mongolian route appears to take a south-westerly 
course, so as to strike, to the right of the white ridges, an easier 

Below me, well out of shot, is a herd of koulans, and they do 
not see me until I am within G50 yards of them, when three 
males look in my direction. As I stand still, they become 
reassured and go on feeding. In this way I get to within 400 
yards of them, but then the alarm is given, and the troop forms 
up, with the males at its head. But instead of bolting off, they 
advance towards me, and as I retreat they come on in a sort of 
semicircle, actuated, apparently, by curiosity. Can it be that 
they have a vague recollection of having once lived on good terms 
with man, and that they would like to renew the acquaintance ? 
However this may be, a shot from my gun cuts their reflections 
short, and they make off at a bound, leaving behind them one of 
the number which I have wounded, and which cannot keep up 
with the main body. 

On returning to camp I learn that Niaz is ill, and that nearly 

all the men a*e complaining of headache. Above our heads are 

a number of crows which have followed in the track of the 

pilgrims and fed upon their dead, while we also notice some rats 



of the species peculiar to the steppe. Larks, and other birds, 
including the sha-ti (sand-grouse), fly through the air at a great 
pace, as if anxious to get out of such an inhospitable region. 

December 15. — We cross the chain of hills and make our way 
towards the peaks, doing our best to find easy going, and to avoid 
the marshes and ravines. As soon as possible we steered a 
southerly course, and only discovered that we were on a sort of 
terrace, an immense tableland above the plains, when we got to 
the edge of it. In descending the slope we were surprised to see 
a regular flock of orongos which were browsing in the bed of a 
torrent, silvered in places by layers of salt that seemed like pools 
of water or blocks of ice. Having no skins of these antelopes, 
which we had never seen before, we lost no time in killing 
some. It would be impossible to conceive anything more graceful 
than the way in which these animals carry themselves, combining 
so much elegance with so much strength. We admire their large 
black muzzles, their broad dark chests, their grey coats, and the 
fury with which the males attack one another. 

The females get their young together and drive them up 
towards the hills, galloping after them at a great pace. The 
males, now on the Hanks of the herd, now in the rear, and now 
going back to fetch one of the females which has lagged behind, 
bound along, head downwards, with an agility which we envy all 
the more because we cannot go more than twenty yards without 
sitting down to rest. These antelopes display a certain amount 
of courage, for a male which Prince Henry had shot charged 
him, and had to be despatched with a revolver, while one which I 
had wounded tried to rip open the horse which Eachmed, who 
went close up to it, was riding. Father Dedeken also killed 
one, and the result of all this is that, being delayed in our march, 
we cannot reach the frozen pool, and have to go to bed with- 
out drinking. We give this plain the name of the antelopes 
{Orongos) we have killed here, and it is to be hoped that any 


future explorer who may fail io see any orongos in these parts will 
not tax us with exaggeration. 

December 16. — The whole of our troop was astir early, and 
lost no time in reaching the frozen river which supplies the snowy -, 
chain trending eastward. We shelter ourselves from the north- 
west wind at the foot of a terrace, and the day is spent in eating 
and drinking. A few delicacies are distributed by way of dessert, 
and with the sun warming us a little in the afternoon, good- 
humour is restored. All the sick persons, except Niaz, are im- 
proving. Parpa, who was constantly groaning, looks much brighter, 
and liachmed assures me that there was not really much the 
matter with him. I hear my companions making all sorts of 
plans, and I am myself inclined to regard them as feasible. In 
the meanwhile it is decided not to start in future without two or 
three days' supply of ice and a corresponding quantity of argol. 
The reader can have no idea how difficult it is to induce men 
who are tired out to take the most primitive precautions against 
cold and thirst. We are encamped at an altitude of 15,400 feet, 
and, looking back towards the north, we can again see the 
Columbus mountains. It seems as if we were separated from 
them by a smooth plain cut in two by a long ridge of cliffs. 

December 17. — Winding round the chain of hills which pro- 
tected us, and leaving on our left, to the east, the snow-capped 
mountains, we arrived by a small pass at the camping-ground of 
the Kalmucks, on the brink of a dried-up torrent, the carcases of 
five camels indicating the route to follow. The stage was a 
fatiguing one, owing to a blinding nor'-wester. We followed an 
easy path, winding along the spurs of hills, many of which 
terminate at their culminating point in protuberances like warts 
on the human body. 

Before making for the south-west we saw behind us, from the 
top of the pass, the hill of which we had first of all made the 
circuit. Its summit is jagged and broken up into battlements of 



Asiatic aspect, while it bristles with sharp points in the shape of 
arrows and Gothic steeples. 

December IS. — All night the abominable north-west wind has 
been howling, with a minimum of 9 Q below zero. The men are 
all ill, with the usual S}anptoms. When we prepared foi°a start 
the thermometer was at 2° below zero,- with a good deal of wind, 
and it was no pleasant business for the men to handle the ropes. 
We were still in a desert of sand and stones, with a few tufts of 
rank grass and salt, but after scrambling over a pass about 10,000 
feet above the sea-level, with our camels, we descended into the 
valley through a gorge, where we get welcome protection from 
the wind. We believe that we are now on the other side of the 
Prjevalsl^y chain, and, according to Timour, this chain extends as 
far as Bokalik. 

We halt in the midst of the sand, in a hollow where we can 
set the wind at defiance. All around us the ground undulates 
very much, and the horizon is so far familiar that we can make 
out the same peaks which have hitherto served as landmarks, 
though we believe we are in another region. Presently the 
wind goes down and the sky becomes overcast. At nightfall, and 
with the temperature at only 3° above zero, we find it so pleasant 
that we call this place the Camp de la Miséricorde. 

December 19. — To give further justification for this name, we 
were informed on waking this morning that nearly all our men were 
indisposed, especially Imatch the bandy-legged. They attributed 
this indisposition to a hot wind which, they said, was blowing 
during the night. As to Niaz, he is so weak that he cannot 
stand up, and the men say this hot wind must have been very 
bad for him. Yet the thermometer stood as low as 18° below 
zero during the night. Soon there is a fall of snow, but only 
for a few minutes ; then the sun comes out, and it would be 
just the weather for starting on the march, only we have no 
horses. They had been picketed out before daybreak, so as to 


enable them to graze upon the scanty herbage, but the poor 
animals, not having drunk for several days, went off in quest of 
a spring. As the reader may imagine, they had some distance 
to travel, and Timour, who went off in search of them, has not 
returned. Night sets in, and still there are no signs of him. 
Eachmed has been scouring the country, and has found traces of 
Kalmucks going directly south through the sands, As soon as it 
gets dark a lantern is hoisted at the top of a pole and placed on 
a hillock, so that it may serve as a lighthouse for Timour. At 
intervals we fire off a gun or a revolver. All our men are haunted 
with the idea that he is calling out, and at intervals one of them 
gets up and fires off his gun. So it goes on all night. 

December 20. — At 5 a.m. there is a fall of about half an 
inch of snow, as fine as sleet, and the temperature rises a little. 
The sky remains overcast, and then a south-west wind gets up 
and the sun comes out. The minimum for the night has been 
25° below zero, and we feel very sorry for poor Timour, who 
has not yet returned. Parpa starts off on a camel, carrying a 
pelisse, some food, and water in the shape of ice, and he goes 
to the left, while Eachmed sets out to the right on foot, 
carrying a cudgel, a revolver, and some bread. He will go as far 
as he can, for not onl} r is Timour his friend, but he realises what 
a disaster the loss of the horses would be. We watch him start 
at the rapid pace which his familiarity with life on lofty moun- 
tains alone renders possible, and await the result with no little 

About noon Timour arrived, on Parpa's camel, the latter 
following at a slower rate with the horses. We welcomed him 
back with delight, and he had tears in his eyes when he saw us 
again, being blue with cold and very tired. After he had con- 
sumed a good deal of tea and sugar, he related his adventures as 
follows : — 

" I found the track of the horses two hours after leaving the 


camp. First of all, they had gone somewhat at haphazard, wander- 
ing from right to left, and then one of them assumed the lead, 
taking the others a great distance. It was not till close upon the 
feeding-time for animals in winter (about three o'clock) that I 
caught sight of the first horse. I got on his back in order to 
reach the others, but finding that he was tired, I got off and led 
him. I gradually caught them all, beginning with those which 
were the most tired, and as I caught them I hobbled them with 
their halters. Then when I had secured them all — for I counted 
them — I got them together, and night set in. I marched on, 
driving them in front of me, but, despite the brilliancy of the 
stars, I could not find the camp. I called out, but could get no 
answer, so I tied the horses together and slept leaning against one 
of them which had lain down. This warmed me a little, but it 
was bitterly cold, and I have a pain in my head." 

Everyone was overjoyed, for Timour is very much liked, no 
work being too much for him, while he is one of the best men 
we have to follow out a track. When travelling, one soon gets 
attached to men of this type, and soon learns in the same way 
to despise the selfish and the lazy. 

The first thing was to give the horses water. First of all, we 
tried to obtain some by cutting into the ice of a small lake near 
our camp, but it was only a waste of time ; for though we hacked 
and hewed away, there was no sign of any water. Then we 
piled up roots and argol, to which we set fire, passing the whole 
day in melting the ice, so as to distribute small quantities of 
water to the poor animals. This operation lasted all the after- 
noon and part of the evening ; in future, whenever we get into 
camp, we will cut blocks of ice out of the surface of the lakes 
and let the horses crunch them. 

In the afternoon we saw larks and other birds flying eastwards, 
and rats emerging from the ground, attracted by the sunlight. In 
going to look for Rachmed — as it is he who is lost now — I climbed 


to the summit of a sandhill, the smooth base of which is scored 
by rugged lines forming one of a series of hillocks which 
remind me of harlchans* which have been brought to a stand- 
still. In the first place, plants with an infinite growth of' roots 
have enveloped them as it were in a web, then tufts of grass have 
fixed them in their place. The snow as it melted has acted like 
masonry, and the wind has ceased to have any hold except upon 
the very light grains which are sprinkled on the surface. 

The snow has streaked with white this corner of the earth's 
surface, and the sun has, if I may so express myself, made the 
landscape look old-fashioned, like that which you see on a box of 
sweetmeats. The colours are in juxtaposition, but they do not 
fuse, the effect being that of the chromo-lithographer rather than 
of the colourist. In all directions the soil has been scored by 
ephemeral torrents, which have left a little ice behind them in 
some corner or gully. At each step one takes it becomes clear 
that this is not a country in which it would be possible to live, for 
the solitude is too great, and the cold too intense. The lungs 
either do not act at all, or act too much, and if one happens to un- 
cover the mouth while w T alkin°r, the bronchial tube is inflamed or 
irritated by the cold air. Most of our men are coughing during 
the night, and everything gets so dry that our toe- and finger- 
nails snap off at the least touch, while wood breaks like glass. 
The beard does not grow, but loses its colour, the hands chap, 
the skin cracks, and the lips swell. None of us escape the moun- 
tain sickness, to combat which great energy is required, for it 
saps all one's strength ; and experience has shown me that the 
only way to obtain normal circulation of the blood is simply to 
keep moving quickly, about after one has well lined one's 

It is difficult to do anything on an empty stomach, for you at 
once have cold feet and a bad headache. As soon as you have 

* Turkish name for hillocks of shifting sand. 


taken food you feel better, and as you believe the mischief is past, 
and 3'ou are weak, you are tempted to lie down and wrap yourself 
well up. Your feet again get cold, and the headache returns, but 
as soon as you sit up you feel relieved, and if you go out for a 
quick walk the symptoms quickly disappear. 

I have tried this several times upon myself and my men, and 
it has alwaj^s been successful. It proved so to-day in the case of 
Imatch, who was complaining of a horrible headache till I made 
him take a good cup of tea with plenty of sugar, dipping into it 
a bit of bread as hard as a stone, and then go out and look for 
the sheep. He had a difficulty in making a start, but when he 
came back he was feeling better. It was the same with Iça and 
Parpa, and I have noticed that there were always more men ill on 
the days that we halted. First of all I thought this must be due 
to the reaction following on great fatigue, but I afterwards ascer- 
tained that it was because the men gave way and remained with- 
out motion, instead of facilitating the circulation of the blood by 

While I am noting down this fact, the lighted lantern is once 
more hoisted to the top of our pole, Eachmed not having returned. 
Some of our men have been sent out to look for him, but they 
have returned without finding him, having been forbidden to go 
very far, for fear they might get lost themselves. Well as we are 
acquainted with Eachmed's ability, and confident as we feel that 
he has not lost his way, we begin to be anxious about him. He 
must have gone a great distance and been overtaken by the dark- 
ness. We fire guns at intervals, and utter prolonged shouts, for 
the cold is intense, with gusts of wind from the south-west, and 
the poor fellow only took a light cloak with him so as to be able 
to walk with comfort. At eight p.m. the thermometer marks 
20° below zero, while the minimum of the night is 28° below 
zero, with, a wind which freezes the blood in one's veins. 

It may seem singular that our people should lose their way so 


often ; but it will be neither the first nor the last time, nothing being 
easier even for the most prudent and experienced. It is difficult to 
imagine how hard it is to find one's way among these highlands, 
where a man loses all sense of perspective, his eye wandering 
over immense spaces without seeing, at given distances, either 
trees, houses, human beings, animals, or edifices the height of 
which is known to him. It is by the incessant and unconscious 
comparison of such objects as these that be has learned to form 
an idea of distance. 

Here in the desert we have in a few weeks lost this sense of 
distance which we had gained by the experience of our lifetime. 
All that one sees is so alike : one hill is like another ; according to 
the time of day a frozen pool either sparkles in the sun or 
disappears, so that one does not know whether it is large or small ; 
a little bird fluttering its wings upon a clod of earth looks like a 
wild animal which has been lying down and is getting up ; a crow 
flying away with its prey in the morning mist seems to be a 
gigantic condor carrying off a lamb in its claws, while at sunset 
this same crow, cleaning itself on the summit of a rock, looks 
the size of a yak or a bear. 

And so the man who has lost sight of the caravan or camp is 
constantly being deceived. His eyes are affected by the smoke of 
the argol, the cold, the wind, and by having used them too much, 
and he is led astray by appearances. If the light fades, or the 
sky becomes overcast, he is lost. Night overtakes him — a black 
and starless night — and then he has only one thing to do, viz., to 
stay where he is until either the wind clears away the clouds, or 
the moon gets up, or until day dawns again. Should the sky 
clear before dawn, he may endeavour to make for his camp by 
means of the polar star. Or in the morning the sun will tell him 
where the east is. But a man must be very bold, or have a 
marvellous memory for the direction followed, to trust himself 
merely to the cardinal points. The surest, not to say the only 


way, is to retrace one's steps, and should they have been effaced 
by a tempest, the man may be regarded as lost. 

All night long I hear the groans of Nia z, who is very ill and 
cannot recover. He is delirious, fancying that he can see two 
children holding his head. He complains of intolerable pains in 
the brain, and has no strength to eat or drink, while his tongue 
is swollen, his face and lips being tumefied and blue. We can do 
nothing for him ; what he wants is to be at a lower altitude, 
and we shall probably be obliged to mount still higher to-morrow. 

December 21. — This morning, Eachmed not having returned, 
Dedeken on horseback and Timour on a camel went to meet him, 
and soon returned followed by Eachmed, who, after mounting the 
camel, felt the cold a good deal, and preferred to Avalk. He does 
not seem to be very much done up ; and after he has eaten and 
drunk heartily, we hear his story. He has been a long way, 
describing a large semicircle around the traces of a route, and as 
he saw nothing he went marching on until he got surprised by 
night. Then, thanks to a clear sky, he came upon the track of 
the Mongols, and rested for a little beside a fire of argol which 
he lighted. "Then," he went on to say, "I returned in 
the direction of the camp, and the cold was so intense that I no 
longer dared to stop for fear of going to sleep and never waking 
again. So then I warmed myself again in my own way." 

" How did you manage ?" 

" I unrolled the strips of wool which I had round my feet and 
legs, and put half of them next to my chest, under my clothes ; 
and when I stopped to rest, I removed the strips I had round my 
feet, and substituted for them those which had been warmed by 
contact with my body. So I could stop for a minute without 
having my feet frozen. When the cold began to get trying, I 
started off again, and walked nearly the whole night." 

We were delighted to see him back, and after a few minutes' 
rest, he was at work again as usual. He even wanted to strike our 


tents and establish the camp further on, where there is a little 
grass, but it being late, we deferred the operation till to-morrow. 

It is a consolation to know that there is no one missing, for 
we are so isolated in this immense desert that the very worst of 
our men is extremely precious. Perhaps this may be because 
man is scarce, and his value, like that of other things, is a 
question of supply and demand. But it is not merely for 
economic reasons that we are full of anxiety when one of our 
men is missing. It is because we are attached to him, because he 
belongs to our troop, to our party. When travelling, I have 
often watched the flocks of birds Hying overhead, and going in 
families and troops like ourselves. I imagine that when they meet 
in the evening and compose themselves to sleep, each head of the 
family counts his flock, and if one is missing the companions of 
the absent one are all in distress. So is it with us. 

December 22. — During the night there were gusts of wind 
from the south-west, with a minimum of 22° below zero. Ahorse 
has died, the first of the long series which must inevitably follow. 
After having passed several sandy mountain spurs, we reached a 
large valley, extending from north-west to south-east. The sand, 
dotted with tufts of grass, was succeeded by denuded and stony 
surfaces, which appeared to have been washed bare by torrential 

All at once there arose to our right, westward, at a point where 
the chain we have before us seems to join on to that which we have 
left behind, what looked like the peak of Stromboli, as I saw it 
for the first time when making for Sicily. Looking downward, 
I saw that the bed of the ravines we were going through was 
darkish in hue and sprinkled about with lava. We encamped in 
the lava plain, and christened the volcano, which let fall its long 
trailing mantle just west of us, after Eeclus, the greatest of French 
geographers, who will be pleased to hear of our discovery. East- 
ward, amid a number of snowy peaks, there towers a giant more 


than 23,000 feet high, which we named after Ferrier, a French 
traveller little known to his countrymen, who, in his day, made a 
magnificent journey through Afghanistan. This valley is, of 
course, shut in by mountains, and it strikes us as being about a 
hundred miles long. To the north, the chain undulates in some 
places, and is jagged in others ; westward, we notice several cones 
beyond the Reclus volcano. 

We have to go to bed without lighting a fire, and therefore 
without drinking any tea, as the roots we have picked up are too 
impregnated with salt to produce a flame. Niaz is dying. 

A good many orongo antelopes are in sight, and wolves and 
foxes are prowling about. They seem to live principally upon a 
small grey rodent with a large head, not unlike a guinea-pig. 

December 23. — A cold wind from the south-east, with a 
minimum of 22° below zero. When we started southward, where 
there appeared to be a pass leading through the chain, the sky was 
clear. The desert, up which we made our way by a very gradual 
ascent, was bare and stony, furrowed by a few ravines, within 
which oroiigos were lying sheltered, beside large slabs of salt. At 
our feet were cinders, lava, and a very dark surface, and the pass, 
wide where we entered it, gradually narrowed. But the route 
was a good one for the camels, being soft to the feet and dusty, 
with bits of schist lying about. As soon as we lost sight of the 
Eeclus volcano there was an end to the lava. 

The Dungan is in a bad humour. This morning he beat 
his son and wanted to kill him, Bachmed being compelled to 
intervene. As to Niaz, he has become unconscious, and is 
strapped on to a camel to prevent him from falling off. When 
I came into the camp after all the others, I learned that when 
the Dungan got there he did not even make the camel kneel 
down, but, unfastening the ropes, let Niaz fall with all his 
weight to the ground. This heartlessness, which is characteristic 
of the Chinese race, is a thing to which neither we nor our 

■ i >'-- ' ' /■» H ~:'\&\' >v--'' ■<* 


Mussulmans can accustom ourselves. It is just as well not to 
have a revolver about one when present at such scenes as this. 

Our camp is pitched in the middle of the pass, at an altitude 
of about 17,^40 feet, and it is bitterly cold. The wind has swept 
a little'snow into the crevices, and this is carefully collected, some 
of it being given to the men, while the rest is put into the canoes, 
which will serve as drinking-troughs for our horses. They 
swallow the snow, which we have mixed with barley, with mani- 
fest satisfaction. 

Niaz is at the last gasp, his face being hardly recognisable, 
and he cannot open his eyes. About six o'clock Timour comes to 
say that he thinks he is dead, but Rachmed finds that he is still 
breathing, though he cannot get through the night. 

December 24. — At daybreak the tempest which had begun 
in the night is still raging; and Rachmed, when he comes to 
make his customary report, has a depressed look, with tears 
standing in his eyes. '"'It is all over," he says, "with Niaz, but 
we have neither water nor wood to melt the ice, and we cannot 
wash the body according to the rite, nor array it in clean 

" No matter ; Allah will forgive you, for you are doing the 
best you can." 

'■' We will roll the body up in the white felt which I lent him 
to keep himself warm. But I do not think we can dig him a 
grave. The mountain is too hard." 

" Inter him the best way you can." 

" I will do so myself, with the help of Timour, who is reciting 
the prayers, and of Parpa, who has sat at meat with Niaz's 

" Yery good ; we will help } T ou too." 

The body of the faithful servant, which has been stiffened 
by the cold, lies wrapped up in the pelisse near the tent of his 
ill-conditioned master, and we cover it with white felt. The 


snow is falling- in whirling flakes all around us, and the wind 
is piercingl}^ cold, as our men take their pickaxes and try to 
break up the ground. This they fail to do, and then they 
see what can be done with their hatchets, for the Mussulmans 
are not like the Buddhists, who leave their dead exposed, and 
they would give anything to put the body of Niaz beyond reach 
of the wild beasts. But the effort they make soon takes their 
breath awaj-, and they have to stop and rest, the tears which 
run down their cheeks freezing on their beards, from which they 
hang like so many icicles. They are soon exhausted, for the 
tempest takes all their breath away, and they have only been 
able to make a very shallow grave — little more than one of those 
cavities which animals scoop out with their paws when they 
want to go to sleep. 

Then Eachmed remembers that the dead man's face should be 
turned towards the holy city of Mecca, and he is afraid whether 
all this labour may not have been in vain. So he questions 
Parpa on the point ; but Timour has thought of the Keblah, and, 
pointing to the south-west he sa} r s, " It is over there, we can place 
him so." 

Eachmed asks me if the needle of the compass tells the same 
story, and, upon my saying that it does, the}'' take up the body 
carefully, lay it on the ground as a mother might her sleeping 
child, and raise the head, which is well covered up, on to a flat 
stone, so that, as they think, Niaz may sleep better. They tuck 
him in as if he were in bed, and are surprised to find as they move 
him how illness has brought down his weight. Then, when he is 
carefully put to rest, they place the stones and the lumps of earth 
over him, and go on until the whole of the felt, which serves as 
a coffin for him, is hidden from sight. Then each of us, in 
order to complete the work, gets a slab of schist out of the 
pocket of his cloak and places it over the grave, while Timour 
plants in the ground several straight pieces of wood at the place 



where the head is laid. That done, we have to say farewell to our 
worthy comrade. Father Dedeken first recites some prayers, and 
is followed hy Timour. We are all of us sobbing, and Timour 
can scarcely finish his oration, which he winds up in a paroxysm 
of grief by affirming the 
greatness of Allah, the 
survivors taking up the 
refrain, " Allah is great ! 
Grod is great ! " 

So we commit to his 
rest, each of us after our 
own customs and with / 
sincere sorrow, sterling, A 
honest Niaz. /< 

Then the camels are |k 
loaded amid the violent \ V ■ 
snowstorm, and when all 
is ready the Dungan, 
who had treated his 
servant worse than a 

camel, comes and pros- HEAD op AN oiiONGO antelope. 

trates himself ceremoni- 
ously, as befits a representative of the best bred people in 
Asia — I mean, of course, the Chinese. 

When we start, the bouran becomes more intense, and it being 
hopeless to think of following out a track in such weather, we have 
to guess our way until the sun, after being so long veiled behind 
the clouds, comes out and gives us fresh courage. We reach the 
summit of the pass, and deviate a little eastwards to a gully, down 
which we go, protected from all wind, and in which we can feel 
the warmth of the sun, our gloomy feelings evaporating under its 
cheering influence. 

After coming out of the gully and crossing the chain where 


the body of Niaz is interred, we again find ourselves in a valley 
analogous to the " Valley of Lava," but not so long or so broad, and 
extending eastward, with lakes — some of which are close to salt 
deposits — that appear to be frozen over. There is a succession of 
dried beds of torrents, bare hills, and wandering or on go's, with 
snow accumulated in some of the crevices. This is the only 
modification to w T hich the scenery, that varies so little in this region, 
is subject. The sky being cloudy, our horizon is an extremely 
limited one, and the traces of the pilgrims grow scarcer and 
scarcer, being only visible where the camels have left their 

December 25. — To-day there is a fall of snow. We see 
nothing but small lakes, salt, and sandy hills. One pass is very 
much like another, and when the sky is clear we can see mountain 
upon mountain, with a great variety of peaks, and a mixture of 
ice and snow. The route is strewn with the dead bodies of yaks, 
which had belonged to the Kalmucks, and the snow falls nearly 
every day, though in small quantities, the wind blowing from the 
south-west ; and we have quite lost our way. 

December 29. — The Avind is to the west, and this does not 
mend our case, for we are going due south over a bare plain. 
We encamp in the midst of the lava, at the foot of a volcano to 
which we give the name of Euysbruk, or Eubruquis, in compli- 
ment to the great Flemish traveller, the compatriot of Father 
Dedeken. To the west of the camp, Prince Henry and Timour 
come upon camel-droppings, so the route which goes southward is 
again found. The marches are now very severe, for, in addition 
to the twelve miles or so of mountain climbing we do each 
day, the route for the following one has to be prospected. As 
soon as the tent has been pitched, sometimes while it is being 
pitched, we go forward to see what lies before us, a slice of bread 
and a few dried apricots helping to keep one in trim. But it is 
tiring work, for no sooner do we get to what looks like a sum- 


mit than we find there is a higher one beyond, and in this way 
we are often tempted on and on until night sets in, with difficulty 
finding our way back to the camp. 

After a still, starry night, with a minimum of 21° below zero, 
we started just as a west wind, still more intolerable than yester- 
day's, got up. We could not open our right eyes, and it was the 
same with the horses, whose right eyes were masked by a frozen 
tear. Vestiges of the preceding year were very apparent in the 
plain. The " Red Pass," as we call it, because of the colour of 
the soil, led us to the camp of the pilgrims, which had been 
pitched in a depression of the ground behind a volcano, of which 
there is a whole series just here. The wind did not stop till 
about seven p.m., and we notice that this west wind generally rises 
about ten a.m. 

December 30. — The night having been a quiet one, the men 
say they feel better, and the weather is now magnificent. To the 
north-west a volcano stands out very clear and distinct, capped 
with snow, and the sun sheds upon the scene a tinge of the 
picturesque to which our eye is not accustomed. For four hours 
we pass a good deal of lava, the largest blocks being the 
farthest from the volcano, close to which there is a good deal of 
crumbling dust. 

At first our route is a pleasant one, following a well-sheltered 
narrow ravine, in which it is quite warm. But this is too good 
to last, and we come out upon the steppe across which a bitter 
wind is blowing. Before the hurricane has reached its maximum 
of intensity I have time to distinguish in the west a vast chain 
of mountains with snowy peaks thirty or thirty-five miles away, 
so far as I can judge with my eyes so inflamed. 

At times, we cannot see ten paces in front of us, and I have 
the camels brought close together, Prince Henry putting himself 
at their head and leading them, by means of the compass, in a 
southerly direction. Rachmed and myself endeavour to find the 


traces of the route, and the others shelter themselves as best 
the)' can behind the camels. 

The tempest is gradually demolishing the crumbling hills and 
the harJchans in the lower grounds. The laws of gravity prevail 
even here, and while at the foot of tlie hills we are assailed by what 
might be described as grains of corn : higher up, there is a dust 
which forms into waves and which the tempest lifts and hurls in 
all directions. The scene is a fantastic one, and these mountains 
of sand form a singular spectacle. In the evening, we come upon 
the pilgrims' camping-ground in a " haven," within which we are 
glad to take rest. 

December 31. — The tempest lasted all through the night, 
with a minimum of 21° below zero. We sorely need a lower 
altitude, for men, horses, and camels are alike in a bad way, and 
old Imatch has one of his feet badly swollen. All through this 
the last day of the year we marched along between sandhills, 
winding round the shores of a lake, our horses pretty well blinded 
by the dust and sand. The camels would not follow one another, 
for the wind blinded and stupefied them, and each one tried to 
shelter himself behind the other. This caused them to deviate 
from the straight line, and Prince Henry, with compass in hand, 
leading the way, had constantly to turn round and put the 
caravan straight. 

It is thus that we reached the camping-ground and found an 
ad libitum supply of argot and ice. This makes the encampment 
just tolerable, and we celebrate the New Year by slaughtering a 
sheep which has lost most of its fat, but which is none the less 
appreciated. Imatch, whose foot has swollen in an alarming 
way, complains of headache and singing in the ears. Being 
afraid that the foot is frost-bitten, we apply a plaster made of 
mutton fat ; he also puts his foot into the smoking paunch of 
the sheep, which at once gives him relief. 

Iça prepares a dish which is not at all inviting in appearance, 


but tastes better than it looks : it is made out of the sheep's 
entrails. Then we make an immense tchouzma, this consisting 
of flour mixed with mutton fat, which is boiled in a small quantity 
of water, a little powdered sugar being then added. After great 
difficulty we get a little tea, for the wind is so violent that it 
takes hours to melt the ice and boil the water, just as the meat 
cannot be thoroughly cooked for the same reason. Then, after 
expressing our best wishes for a happy new year to our relatives 
and friends at home, and securing the pegs of our tent, which 
the wind assails with unabated fury, we turn in as quickly as 
possible, Prince Henry trying to put the best face on things by 
observing that in such weather as this one would not be better 
off at sea. 




New Year's Greetings — The Ruysbruk Volcano — Abdullah Astray — Recovering the Track of 
the Pilgrims — Making for the Tengri Nor — Crossing the Lake of Cones on the Ice — 
"Lake Montcalm" — A A^alley of Dry Bones — The Dupleix Mountains — Human 
Handiwork — Probable Source of the Yang-tse-Kiang — Fossils at a Height of 19,000 Feet 
— Traces of Human Beings — 40° Below Zero — Celebrating the Chinese New Year — 
" Crows with a Metallic Croak" — Mountains Everywhere — Punning Water. 

January 1, 1890. — After hav- 
ing exchanged greetings, we are 
delighted to find that the hurri- 
cane from the west has subsided 
to a wind which we should have 
thought intolerable four or five 
days ago, but which we now 
regard as little more than an 
ordinary breeze. The sky is com- 
paratively clear, and the year 
opens auspiciously. We can 
make out where we are, and to 
the N.N.W the Ruysbruk volcano 
stands out so distinctly that one 
might imagine it had got closer 
to us. Snowy peaks, visible in all directions, show that we have 
got out of the desert. As we could not detect any traces of the 
pilgrims, we steered due south. 

We emerged from the sandy valley to encamp on the hills, 
not far from the ice, and sheltered from the west wind. The soil 
is covered with lava, and is of a very dark hue, the presence of all 
this lava being accounted for by the proximity of several cones of 
volcanoes. As soon as we arrived we broke up into small 



parties to search for the traces of the pilgrims' route, but found 
none. At nightfall Abdullah was missing. 

January 2. — Abdullah did not return all night, to our great 
disquietude, and this morning Rachmed and Timour went in 
search' of him. Rachmed brought back his horse, without its 
saddle or piece of felt, and soon after Abdullah himself followed 
in a pitiable state. He had got astray in the storm, his horse 
had dropped out of sheer weakness, and, after having made a vain 
attempt to return, he had unsaddled the beast and taken its 
piece of felt to cover himself with. Having plenty of argol 
handy, he had lighted a fire with the butt end of his whip, and 
would have passed the night in comparative comfort had he not 
been so terribly hungry. But he soon made up for lost time. 

After the comparative lull during the night and morning, the 
west wind got up again about nine o'clock, but fortunately the 
soil where we are is not very sandy. So we do not suffer so 
much from the dust, though in the valley below it blows in such 
clouds that there is nothing else to be seen. 

When I go down to the banks of the stream to see if I cannot 
discover some traces of a route, I come upon the tracks of a wolf, 
and soon after the wolf himself appears, in pursuit of a herd of 
antelopes. He has not much chance of overtaking them, and 
when he stops short, a bullet from my rifle rudely breaks in upon 
his reflections. 

There is a good deal of animal life about, larks, black 
eagles, and falcons hovering in the air, and I notice that there are 
a great many animals of the rat species, which have their holes 
in the slopes. They are light grey in colour, with large heads, 
powerful jaws, long bodies, and short legs. They seem to be fat 
and comfortable, and I am almost tempted to envy them their 
warm holes in this bitter weather. 

At nightfall Rachmed came in from the south without 
having discovered the least trace of the passage of the pilgrims. 


Father Dedeken has been equally unsuccessful, and so, too, lias 
Prince Henry, who came in dead tired, carrying on his back the 
heads of two orongos which he had killed. Timour was still 
absent, and it was not for a long time, and after we had been 
shouting for him in all directions, that he made his appearance, 
with icicles hanging from his beard, and so done up that he 
could hardly stand. He had difficulty in breathing and in 
getting out his words, but his face was radiant, for he had come 
upon plent}'" of traces, in proof of which he proudly produced 
some camel-droppings from his pocket. 

This piece of news puts all our troop in good humour, 
especially as the droppings are so similar to those we have seen 
before that they clearly belong to the same camels. 

January 3. — We make rather to the east, so as to strike the 
pilgrims' route. Enormous yaks stand to watch us pass, and but 
for the disobedience of a dosf, we might have killed one of these 
mountains of flesh. A camel which had seemed to be quite well 
died suddenly as we were climbing one of the many hills up and 
down which we went all day in this region so full of ravines. In 
the evening we find shelter in the bottom of a small amphi- 
theatre of hills, amid the crumbling sandstone. The cliffs and 
banks, eaten out and scored by the wind, break the usual monotony 
of our horizon, and produce the effect of a country which is in- 
habited, or which has been. 

The sky is clear, the . west wind has dropped almost com- 
pletely, and, with the moon shining brightly, we shall have a 
sharp night. 

January 5. — The thermometer marked a minimum of 35° 
below zero, and the morning is a lovely one. I need not 
describe our route, for it is always the same, up hill and down 
dale, its monotony being broken only by the west wind, which 
seems always to get up about ten a.m. 

It is as bitterly cold as ever, and after marching for 



some time, we see to the south, above a dark but not very 
lofty chain of hills, a number of icy peaks all in a line. They 
form part of a very high and jagged chain, covered with snow, 


and some of our men want to know how we are to cross this 
mass of snow and ice, declaring that the farther we advance the 
more intense is the cold and the higher are the mountains. One 
chain after another bars the way, and how are we to get over 
them ? I endeavour to console them by pointing to the horizon 
behind us, and to the mountains, which look just as impassable 
as those in front of us. 

We shall have some good tea this evening, for we have come 
upon a lake — in shape resembling a double eye-glass — with ice as 
pure as crystal, so we empty our sacks of the dirty ice- they 
contained and take in a fresh supply. Pitching our camp in 
the lowest part of the valley near the lake, our arrival puts to 
flight a dozen orongos licking the surface of the ice, which shone 
in the sun like a mirror, and reflected their graceful forms. There 
are blocks of lava along the edge of this lake, the level of which 


has been gradually falling-, for we can trace six successive circl< 
on the banks, indicating the six successive changes of level, 
seems certain, too, that there are some hot water springs nearly 
in the centre. 

The night is magnificent, and as I walk along the s'nores of 
this little lake, it sparkles almost as much as the moon, having, 
besides, a white halo of salt upon its banks. Our tent is pitched 
in a regular basin, while above us the lava has the appearance of 
a herd of cattle lying down, or of dark-plumaged birds waiting 
to swoop down upon some corpse. The stillness is unbroken 
until a camel, which is very thirsty, gets up and goes to drink, 
finding, much to his disappointment, that it is ice and not water 
on the surface. In due course he goes back and lies down beside 
his companions, and again the stillness is complete, except for 
the sort of humming sound in the ears peculiar to high 

Owing to the dryness of the air, the light falls in floods upon 
the hollow where we have our camp, projecting my shadow clearly 
upon the salt. When I get back to the tent, the thermometer 
marks 29° below zero. Prince Henry reminds Father Dedeken 
that they had come upon the traces of a wolf before turning 
in, and they suggest that as I am up, I should go in search 
of it. 

January 6. — The thermometer marks 40° below zero, the 
point at which the mercury freezes, and there is still the west 
wind. We are surrounded to the north-west with lava apparently 
vomited from the mouth of a crater. 

Loading our animals and starting southward, we came upon a 
pool of water about twenty minutes afterwards, at the sight of 
which, horses, camels, sheep, and dogs, got into a state of great 
excitement, only to find that the water was so salt and brackish 
that they could not drink it. The enormous quantity of salt had 
kept the water liquid, but the poor animals could not know this, 


of course, and some of our men thought it might be hot springs 
which had prevented it from freezing. 

I had omitted to say that we have given up looking for traces 
of the pilgrims, as the search gave more trouble than it was 
worth, and it may be that this route extends too much to the east, 
for we do not wish to come out by the grand route of the Koukou 
Nor, followed by Fathers Hue and Gabet, and afterwards by 
Prjevalsky. We are endeavouring to make the lake of Tengri 
Nor, trying to keep rather to its right than its left as we go 
southward. Marching on in front of the caravan as pioneers, my 
companions and myself do not intend to go after game except in 
so far as we require it for food and for our collections, our 
main object being to trace a route of our own without any sort of 

In the evening we encamp about a quarter of a mile from 
a fine piece of water which we call " the Lake of Cones," because 
of the shape of the mountains which surround it. We try to 
pierce the ice of a small pool to let the animals drink, but they 
cut themselves about the mouth. The horses remained for three 
hours munching the pieces of ice. 

January 7. — We crossed the ice of the Lake of Cones in forty 
minutes. The south-west end of it does not seem to be frozen ; 
it is about twelve miles long by two broad. After going over 
a rather steep pass, we descended into a deserted valley, where 
we killed a few hares, which, if small, are of excellent flavour. 
During the last few days we have seen nothing of any big game, 
and yet there has been very little snow and a certain quantity of 
grass, such as it is. Their absence may be due to the persistent 
winds or the great height, the blast of the tempest and an 
altitude of 18,000 feet not constituting any great attraction. 

The day has been cheerful, even for the most gloomy of our 
men, for the Dungan himself, inasmuch as we have come upon 
wood that had been fashioned by human hands, and upon saddle- 


bows for yaks, made of juniper wood. This discovery led to all 
sorts of comments, and while they were being made, the Dungan 
came up smiling, although he has had to abandon another of his 
camels to-day, and said that he has seen some argoh which had 
been turned over, this being done so that they might dry, a proof 
that the men who have done this intend to return. He invited 
Abdullah and several of the other men to come and eat some 
of his dough, and congratulated himself upon the prospect of 
celebrating the Chinese New Year, which is in thirteen days' 
time, under the shelter of a roof. 

These hopes improve the morale of our men for a few days, but 
we know the old saying about " hope deferred," and it takes little 
to provoke a revulsion of feeling when men are worn out and cut 
off from the world of their fellows. 

January 8. — The scouts we sent out came back and told us 
that, beyond the second chain of mountains, there is a large 
lake. This we go and inspect to-day, to find that it is not 
frozen over, and that its western extremity is about twenty-five 
miles off. Judging by the gaps we see in the midst of the 
mountains, we shall encounter a good many lakes, and it is 
only to be hoped that they are frozen over, and that we shall not 
be obliged to go out of our way to get round them. 

We are at the mercy of the waves, so to speak, being on a 
boundless ocean, the billows of which keep rising before us in the 
shape of mountains, and our troop is made up of a number of 
swimmers tired of breasting wave after wave only to find a higher 
one before them. 

After following a narrow valley, in which are a number of 
salt water springs, we reached the extremity of the lake, which is 
gradually drying up, as we crossed what was formerly part of it, 
but is now covered with a foot of salt. We imagined that 
we had got to the end of the lake, but upon breasting an 
eminence we recognised our mistake, as the hills had hidden from 


our view another stretch of water. We gave the name of Mont- 
calm to this fine piece of water, which extends from east to .. 
west for a length of forty-five or fifty miles. The islands and 
peninsulas prevent us from calculating its precise breadth, but 
we put it at from six to twelve miles. This water delights the 
eye, and gives one the illusion of the sea-shore, its aspect being 
particularly beautiful when, at sunset, the westerly wind causes 
its sparkling surface to undulate like the silvery scales of a fish. 

January 9. — Winding our way round Lake Montcalm towards 
the south-east, we saw a great many wild animals, such as yaks, 
Jcoulans, arlcars, and even the chamois of the Himalayas ; and we 
cheered up our men by pointing to the presence of animals which 
are indigenous to the frontiers of India. 

Beyond a small pass, we came upon some hot-water springs, 
but they were salt, and upon a frozen river which, as seen through 
the mist, appears to be flowing south-east through a vast plain. 

Can this stream be flowing towards China? At once our 
thoughts revert to the sources of the great Blue River. We 
cannot say if we have lighted upon them, but in any case we can 
assert that it is somewhere in this direction that they must be 
sought. The idea that this ice feeds rivers which shed their 
waters in the Pacific Ocean seems to bring us back into contact 
with the world, for if our supposition is correct, all we should 
have to do would be to follow down the course of this stream 
to the coast. 

January 10. — We had to see after the feet of our camels and 
to shoe our horses. The minimum yesterday was 26 below zero, 
while last night it was only 13 below, and this morning 2 above, 
zero, temperatures which to us seem delicious. 

In the afternoon, Prince Henry came back to camp for a 
camel to bring in the body of a yak which he had killed by 
lodging eight bullets in him. We took out the necessary instru- 
ments for skinning and cutting him up, and when we came upon 


him about three-quarters of a mile from tlie camp, found that 
he must be one of the seniors of Thibet, his muzzle being quite 
grey, his teeth worn, and his skin half-tanned by age. It was 
no easy matter to skin him, and he was so heavy that it was as 
much as a camel could do to carry him. 

The sky was clouded over all da}', and had very much the same 
appearance as in the region of the Lob Nor, this moisture of the 
air being due to the proximity of Lake Montcalm, off which the 
wind blows. 

Two of the horses died during the evening- from having drunk 

o o o 

too much water. It is fortunate they were the only two which 
discovered these springs, or we should have lost them all. The 
camels are none the worse for having drunk ; but they have only 
been allowed a limited quantity, and our drivers think that the 
bladder has contracted with all our animals, and that the slightest 
excess of drinking will be fatal. Imatch holds that it will be 
better not to water the camels at the hot springs if we come upon 
any later. 

January 12. — We are in a valley strewn with the bones of 
animals, such as arlcars, Jcoulans, yaks, orongos, and Nemorhedus 
Edwardi* We can only guess the cause of so many skeletons 
being assembled in one place. It may have been an epidemic, 
or a very severe winter, or it may be that the aged animals of the 
flock chose to come here to die. 

January 14. — We encamp at the foot of the pass which we 
shall have to scale in order to cross an enormous chain of moun- 
tains, which we name after that distinguished Frenchman, 

The enthusiasm excited by the discovery of the piece of wood 
wrought by human hands has quite subsided, for we are at a 

* A very interesting collection of animals, plants, etc., brought back by M. Bonvalot 
and his companions has been exhibited during the summer and autumn in the Natural 
History Museum, Paris. — The Translator. 


greater altitude than ever, some of the peaks beside our camp 
being at least twenty thousand feet high, while for the last three 
days we have been groping for the path which will lead us to the 
other side of the chain, the solitude being deeper and weigh- 
ins: heavier than ever. There are numberless traces of wild 
animals and big game having been this way ; but they have all 
cleared off, as if at the word of command, and we see nothing 
but a woebegone crow, which seems to follow us with interest. 

Our men are out of heart, for there seems to be no end to 
these lofty tablelands, and the west wind blows incessantly. 
Rachmed tries to cheer them up, and talks of India as if it were 
just round the corner ; but the conclusion of his discourse is very 
practical, for he says, " We have plenty of provisions ; let us do 
like our horses, only look where we put down our feet, and go 
marching on." 

January 15. — We cross a pass at about 16,500 feet, following 
a gentle slope, and to the west see the glaciers extending down 
to a valley, which we shall follow, marching over ice. In the mist 
we catch a glimpse of snowy peaks, which we calculate to be at 
least 26,000 feet high ; and throughout the whole of this region 
there is a multiplicity of small lakes and pools. The hills, the 
soil of which is very friable, bear traces of the melting of the 
snows and of the inundations which follow, and there is abund- 
ance of ice.. 

January 18. — As we began our march, two daj^s ago, over the 
frozen river, deep and broad, and its surface so slippery that our 
men could hardly keep their feet, we could not help thinking 
that the Dupleix mountains must be the origin of a great river, 
or, at all events, one of its principal sources. 

When the snow has fallen in the course of the next few months 
and the sun has come to melt it, there will be a tremendous inun- 
dation of the highlands, which will be traversed by rivers of liquid 
mud, a good deal of which will be left upon the flanks of the 



hills; these deposits will remain there until the summer following, 
for winter arrests the flow of the river, when the sun acts, lique- 
fying the solid masses, which gradually break away and come down 
lower each year. 

It is, of course, impossible to say positively, but my belief is 

_ — ___ — __ __ . . — . _ — _ — . — __ 


that we are at the sources of the Yang-tse-Kiang. For some 
days past our men have been craving for the sight of their fellow- 
men, and all this because they caught sight of that bit of wood ; 
they are constantly scanning the horizon, examining the soil, 
fancying they have discovered traces, and triumphantly announcing 
their " find " to the others, getting quite angry if you seek to 
prove that they are mistaken. I try to persuade them that 
they are wrong in desiring the presence of their fellow-men, that 
they have nothing good to expect from them, that it would be 
much better for us to be able quietly to continue our route, and 

FOSSILS AT 19,000 FEET. 209 

that a few fat sheep, a little good drinking water, and an end of 
the west wind would be worth any number of Thibetans. But my 
reasons do not impress them, and nothing will satisfy them but 
to see men. After three days' slipping and tumbling on the 
surface 'of the river, which descends by a narrow defile, we have 
come out upon a plain, in the best of spirits, for we have made 
two or three discoveries which put everybody in good heart. 
Yesterday we found fossils at a height about 19,000 feet, while 
about two o'clock I came, in a well- sheltered gorge, upon a calcined 
stone, standing by itself, with horse-droppings all around. Lower 
down were other stones which had been placed side by side, for the 
lighting of a fire, which showed that man had been there. A 
fire of argol and roots had actually been lighted, and as the snow 
had not covered the ashes, this must have been done recently. 
Then I saw, clinging to the rock, a fragment of the skin of the 
megalo-partridge, with the feathers adhering to it, so shooters 
must have stopped there to take a meal. But they could not have 
passed the night here, for there was no trace of any shelter having 
been erected. 

Our caravan came up soon after, and my powers of description 
would fail to give an adequate idea of the unaffected delight of the 
men. Timour maintained that the droppings are not more than 
three days old, and Iça declared that the partridge feathers also 
were quite fresh. Abdullah, after an examination of the sticks and 
the ashes of the fire, exclaimed that the men must be quite close. 

Parpa alone was pessimistic. He urged that it did not follow 
that we should soon encounter men, for when shooting parties come 
out they often wander far away from all human habitations. He 
suggested that they might perhaps be watching us without our 
observing them. Still, he thought it a good sign, and as he could 
muster up a little Chinese, he managed to say a few words to the 
Dungan, whose chief entered quite amicably into conversation 
Avith Abdullah, whom he was going to kill only a few days before. 


To me lie exclaimed, "Adam, Adam ! " (Man ! Man !), and when I 
asked him his opinion, he was emphatic that the fire was not lighted 
more than four days before, and, moreover, that it was not lighted 
by lamas, as it is their habit, when they leave a fire, to disperse 
the stones. 

When we had had our confabulation,, we started afresh with 
a much lighter gait, and Rachmed, who went off in pursuit of 
partridges, which he heard calling to one another on the ridge of 
the mountain, came back to say that he had seen the site of 
another fire, while I observed an obo on one of the summits. 
It is clear that men come into these parts, and I believe we should 
find them if we went more to the east. 

To-day we have seen monkeys crossing the frozen river and 
playing on the rocks which form its banks. But we cannot 
kill one of these animals, which are very short, with red hair, 
small head, and almost imperceptible tail. 

"We pitch our tents near the river, just at the issue of the 
defile through which it winds its tortuous way down from the 
Dupleix mountains, and not far from here, on the plateau, are the 
remains of a yourt of nomad Thibetans. This consists of four 
small ovens with very rough masonry, the fragments of a bag 
made of yak wool, the site of a tent with pegs made of orovgos 
horns, and the droppings of domesticated yaks smaller than those 
of the wild breeds. We catch sight of wolves, and kill some 
red-footed hares, which we eat. And all this — monkeys, hares, 
the yourt, the various tracks made by flocks, the plain which 
we are convinced we shall descry to the east when the snow 
ceases, the very snow, which is converted into excellent water ; 
with the consciousness that we have descended to a rather lower 
altitude, and that the wind is not so strong — revives the drooping 
spirits of our men. Yet this night the thermometer went down 
to 48° below zero, whereas on the previous days the minimum 
had not been more than— 22°. 


January 19. — This morning we get some lark-shooting and 
plainly see two valleys, one coming from the north-east and 
the other from the east, and converging at the point where we 
yesterday saw the monkeys playing on the river surface. At 
the fodt of the mountain spurs, to the south of our camp, are 
some hot springs of drinkable water running over the ice, and 
in front is a level plain rising by very slow degrees to a tract 
of land, beyond which is a rather high mass of mountains. 
Fortunately, the presence of man in this region is beyond doubt, 
or else the view of this fresh range of mountains would have 
affected our men very unfavourably. 

It is surprising to see, in the midst of this plain of hot springs, 
cones of ice, twenty feet or more in diameter, about the height of 
a man, and speckled over on their surface — which is just like 
crystals — with grit and stones from the plain ; these blocks have 
split perpendicularly like certain kinds of over-ripe fruit. We 
have before us frozen geysers, which have become covered with 
this solid head-dress when their power of ejection was not suffi- 
cient to cope with the frost. We also come upon some fine roots 
of iabshans (?), which form very fine bunches, and with these we 
make an unsuccessful attempt to cook apaiao. 

We should much like to eat some of the rice we have carried 
such a long way, but it is impossible to cook it on account of the 
altitude, and our meat, of course, does not cook any better. It 
does not spoil, for it is frozen so hard that when we want to put a 
piece in the pot, we have to chop it as if it were a piece of wood, 
while the fat we eat for butter is as hard as a stone, and might be 
used as a projectile. 

January 20. — The event of to-day is the discovery of the tracks 
of a horseman — tracks which are not new— and of a fragment of 
a saddle made in a particular way, which Abdullah says must have 
belonged to a camel. This suggestion is scouted by Parpa, who 
is a saddler by trade, and is not at all fond of the interpreter. 


The merest trifles are fastened upon, as is the case with navigators 
in search of land ; but, while these are mere suppositions, we 
have as certain facts that the west wind does not go down or 
the cold decrease, the thermometer marking 27° below zero; 
that we are still going up and down hills ; and thkt our 
animals are dying off very fast, while those which survive are 
devoid of all strength. Our horses are incapable of the slightest 
effort, and the camels are kept alive on dough and paste. The 
grass peculiar to the highlands is hard and ligneous — like zinc — 
and although the camels eat it, they are just as hungry as before, 
so that it is necessary to hobble them to prevent them gnawing 
their saddles. We have ten camels and seven horses left, while 
the Dungan still has fourteen camels. 

There are plenty of yaks in this region, but they are very 
wild, and make off before we can get within fair shooting 
distance of them. 

January 21. — The Chinese New Year is celebrated with a 
certain amount of form, thanks to a young stag shot by Eachmed. 
Its flesh is so good that we eat the whole of it, first raw, 
and then toasting slices of it on the argol. Iça is very 
funny with his thigh-bone covered with meat, for he holds it 
in his hand like a sceptre while he is talking. When he wants 
to eat a piece, he holds it before the fire, tears off with his wolf- 
like teeth the part which has got cooked, and so continues as 
long as there is any left. 

January 22. — The men's attention is attracted by large leaves 
which prove to be those of the rhubarb plant, and yesterday 
Prince Henry saw some edelweiss. 

Numerous flocks and herds have lived in this region during 
the summer, under the care of shepherds, for we can distinguish 
the paths made in the soil between the encampment and the pool 
where they were wont to go and drink, and they have left behind 
them heaps of dung which we find useful for fuel. 



IÇÂ'S NEWS. 215 

Around the old encampments we often see large crows, with. 
a big and crooked beak like that of the larger birds of prey. 
They have very powerful claws, and instead of croaking like 
their European congeners, they emit harsh, cavernous, and vibrat- 
ing sounds, like a lock that wants oil. This is why travellers 
have given them the name of " crows with a metallic croak," and 
though they doubtless are in the habit of coming to this place, we 
are evidently not the travellers they would like to see, for they 
nearly all make off after looking at us for a few minutes. 

I need say nothing about the scenery, for it is always the 
same — first a pass, then a valley, then a halt near a lake, then 
another pass, and so on. We are still in a desert, but it is a 
desert which has been inhabited, and this makes our men much 
more cheerful, for they argue that the difficulties cannot be more 
insurmountable for them than they have been for others. 

January 24. — Iça, on his return from fetching the camels, 
points southward, and says : " I have seen men in that direction ; 
I have recognised flocks of yaks and sheep." 

Timour and Rachmed start off at once to verify this state- 
ment, and the west wind announces a change of temperature, for 
it seems moister than usual ; but as a hurricane of snow and dust 
sets in, they come back without having been able to see anything. 
This unlooked-for moisture, and the diminution in the size of 
the snowflakes, lead us to believe that there are large lakes 
evaporating to the west of our route, and charging with vapour 
the winds which pass over them. 

Proceeding forward in these snowstorms, we came suddenly 
upon a frozen geyser about 33 feet in diameter, and then the sky 
cleared and we were surprised to see a large herd of several 
hundred yaks roaming along the sides of the mountain and 
feeding so quietly that we took them for domesticated animals, 
especially as we imagined we could see the shepherds looking 
after them. Having been able to get close to them without 



exciting their attention, we soon found that we were mistaken in 
thinking them tame, and when Prince Henry and Father Dedeken 
tried to stalk them, they made off. 

This evening our people say that the Dungan would do 
well to remove the little hell hanging from the neck of his camel, 
as it might attract the notice of men. It was only the other 


day that they were longing for the company of their fellows, but 
now they have a childish notion that they are being watched by 
invisible horsemen. 

January 27. — The minimum on the night of the 24th, owing 
to the snow, was only 11° below zero, as against 31° the next 
night, but the west wind had fallen during the night, only to 
spring up again in the morning about ten. 

On the 20th we scaled rocks 18,300 feet high, and, looking 
in front of us, could see as many mountains as from the summit of 
the Tash Da wan, when we arrived on the high plateaus. One 
of our men expressed surprise at there being so many mountains 


in the whole world, to say nothing of Thibet. We came npon a 
flock of crows of ordinary size perched upon some rocks and 
croaking, just as the birds which are found near to the dwellings 
of man do, so we are evidently near to human beings. 

^To-day (the 27th) we descend a pleasant little valley with a 
gentle slope, and the presence of some rhubarb, dandelion, and 
grass leads us to believe that this place must be quite habitable 
during the summer. There are numerous paths leading to 
abandoned encampments, and there can be no doubt that the 
Thibetans come and feed their flocks here during the fine weather, 
passing the winter in warmer or more sheltered regions. 

We go cheerfully on, and as the sun is shining brightly, and 
the wind does not blow in this little valley, we might imagine it 
to be spring-time. Down in the bottom, we see running water, 
and make a rush for it, finding it, to our delight, fresh and 
good to drink. Along the slopes of this valley, there is grass 
in abundance, while on a broad and sheltered terrace are great 
heaps of very dry argol. We find that this stream is not frozen 
because it is fed by numerous hot springs which are only 
slightly salt, and it contains a quantity of small fish, whose 
evolutions suffice to amuse us. Abdullah is in high glee, and will 
have it that we are at the sources of the Brahma-Pootra, and 
that all we have to do is descend the river and we shall arrive at 
Lhassa. He is brimming over with happiness, declaring that we 
have already made a journe}' - which no one else has made, that it 
is reaching its close, and that, for his part, you will never catch 
him again in this accursed Thibet. 

We cross to the right bank of the river, and, after going four 
or five miles, find that, as its banks gradually get lower, it is 
frozen over and ends in a kind of lake, on the ice of which the 
water trickles until it has become solidified. While the tent is 
being pitched, I go out to reconnoitre, and find that the river has 
a very broad bed, but that it becomes lost in a rather large lake, 



which it may possibly pass through after the thaw. On my 
return, Abdullah questions me, and when he learns the truth, his 
face grows very long, and he moans : " We shall never nnd our 
way through ! " 

Nevertheless, the day is spent in rejoicings, for these parallel 
paths run in the same direction, viz., to the south-east, and they 
must form a main route of communication. All we need is to see 
men, in order to acquire the certainty that we are really on the 
road to the Nanitso (Tengri Nor) and Lhassa. 

January 28. — We continue going downhill, much to our 
satisfaction, about six miles to the south-east, and have to shorten 
our stages in proportion to the forces of the men and the animals. 

January 29. — Last evening we encamped at an elevation of 
15,700 feet, and to-day we are at 14,500. We get up a lottery 
to be won by the person who makes the nearest guesses at the 
date when we shall encounter the Thibetans, the periods selected 
varying from twenty days to four. 



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Major Monk's Motto; or, "Look Before 

you Leap." 
Tim Thomson's Trial; or, " All is not Gold 

that Glitters." 
Ursula's Stumbling- Block. 
Ruth's Life-Work ; or , "No Pains, no Gains." 
Bags and Rainbows. 
Uncle WiBiam's Charge. 
Pretty Pink's Purpose. 

'Golden Mottoes" Series, The. Each Book containing 208 pages, with Four 
full-page Original Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth gilt, 2s. each. 

" Nil Desperandum." By the Rev. F. L&ng- 

bridge, M.A. 

" Bear and Forbear." By Sarah Pitt. 

" Foremost if I Can." By Helen Atteridge. 

" Honour is my Guide." By Jeanie Hering 

(Mrs. Adams-Acton). 
" Aim at a Sure End." By Emily Searchfield. 
" He Conquers who Endures. By the Author 

of " May Cunningham's Trial," &c. 

"Cross and Crown" Series, The. With Four Illustrations in each Book. Crown 

8vo, 256 pages, 2s. 6d. each. 

Heroesofthe Indian Empire ; or, Stories of I By Fire and Sword; a Story of the Hugue- 

Valour and Victory. By Ernest Foster. nots. By Thomas Archer. 

Through Trial to Triumph; or, "The ^ ^g^£ V ^£-l£« 0i ******* 

Rofal Way." By Madelmc Bonavu 1 Hunt Nû . xïl^ or, tt sT vo a Lo B t Vestal. 

111 W^densef By^. Matflu^ ° fUle A Taleof Êarly Days. By Emma 

Strong to Suffer; A Story of the Jews. By Free-lom's Sword; A Story of the Days of 

E. Wynne. • Wallace and Bruce. By Annie S. Swan. 

Five Shilling Books for Young People. With Original Illustrations. Cloth 
gilt, 5s. each. 
Under Bayard's Banner. By Henry Frith. I Bound by a Spell; or, the Hunted Witch 
The Champion of Odin ; or, Viking Life I of the Forest. By the Hon. Mrs. Greene, 

in the Days of Old. By J. Fred. Hodgetts. ■ The Bomance of Invention. Byjas. Burnley. 

Albums for Children. Price 3s. 6d. each. 

The Chit-Chat Album. Illustrated I My Qwu Album of Animals. Illustrated. 

The Album for Home. School, and Play. _ , ... . ... 1 

Set in bold type, and illustrated throughout: | Picture Album of All Sorts. Illustrated. 

" Wanted— a King" Series. Illustrated. 3s. 6d. each. 

Bobin's Ride. By Miss E. Davenport Adams. , WantPd— a King; or, How Merle set the 
Great-Grandm .inma and Elsie. By Geor- Nursery Rhymes to ltights. By Maggie.- 

t'ina M. Synge. I Browne.